Throughout history, HBCUs have provided safe havens, fostering environments where African American students could thrive and excel academically, while simultaneously nurturing their cultural identity and sense of belonging. These institutions have instilled a profound sense of purpose and ambition, empowering graduates to make lasting impacts in their communities and beyond. In our HBCU grad reflection article series, we delve into the stories and experiences of HBCU graduates, allowing their voices to take center stage. These remarkable individuals will share their transformative journeys, shedding light on the myriad ways in which their HBCU education has shaped their lives, both personally and professionally.
In this article, we speak with Texas Southern University graduate Erykah Jones
Texas Southern University Class of 2022
Member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
What led you to your HBCU?
I grew up in small town in Iowa in a predominately white environment, and attended 2 PWIs. I was a cheerleader at the University of South Dakota my freshman year of college and experienced immense racism and prejudice throughout my time there. My environment affects my mental as well as my academics. I then moved on and transferred to Iowa State University, where I graduated with my Bachelors in Business Management and was initiated into the Theta Psi Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. as a legacy! These experiences gave me the yearning feeling for an HBCU. I would always hear stories about the ‘HBCU experience’ and I absolutely needed to indulge myself in my own culture. I graduated from Iowa State May 2021, moved to Houston July 2021 to attend Texas Southern University, and graduated with my Master’s December of 2022.
What organizations were you a part of and/OR leadership positions held?
My time at TxSU was spent working as a Freshman Academic Advisor/Graduate Assistant, assisting second year students who did not have the credit hours to classify them as a sophomore. I assisted in pushing them to attain the credit hours required for their major, year, and push them to reach their career and academic goals in a program called the ‘Pathway to 30’ or ‘Sophomore Status’ program. This program also provided me the opportunity to be a mentor for the undergraduate students who also worked within the program. I very quickly became very close to my sorors on campus and assisted in some of their campus activities, while also serving as a friend and mentor.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from your HBCU experience?
I came to my HBCU after experiencing undergrad, so my outlook and takeaways were very different. I had an entirely different experience, as I saw students and felt this calling to just help. Yes, I had my academics to focus on, but I saw students struggling and dealing with a lot of the same issues I had as an undergraduate student. The most valuable lesson I learned at my HBCU was to support support support. Support your fellow peers, your classmates, your staff, and yourself.
How did you feel leading up to graduation? Did you have any fears about heading into the world outside of college?
Leading up to graduation, I was honestly in shock. I could not believe that I had fulfilled my dreams and goals; moving away from home, attending an HBCU, and completing my 2 year graduate program in only a year. I was excited, exhausted, but honestly just overall grateful and proud of myself for my journey. The thought of enduring the outside world terrified me. I had been in school non stop since pre-school… that’s 23 years of school. I didn’t know a life without being a student. Those fears were very valid but definitely did not last. Graduation day was the best day of my life and I am so grateful for my journey.
What are you most proud of up to this point in life?
I have 3 colleges under my belt, 2 degrees at the age of 24, a developing company, and so many more dreams and goals that I am so confident that I can achieve. I am proud of my drive and every single one of my accomplishments thus far.
What does life look like for you now?
I am now an aspiring and growing social media content creator, making content for D9 organizations. This started as just a fun hobby and has become something much more than I could have ever expected. I am also the assistant general manager of Nile Xpedite, I am developing my own company 25th & Rose, and I am a marketing influencer for the AmeriCorps GO Fellowship program. I have so many more plans and am excited to see where God takes me on this journey.
What are 3 things people should know about you that they may not know?
1. I absolutely love music, musical, and creativity.
2. I was a gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer.
3. I lowkey should have been a veterinarian…
To learn more about Erykah, follow her on social media here: @rikaa.jo