Jarvis Christian College was recently named as a member of the Millennium Campus Network’s coalition of schools. Membership indicates that students are active in launching and producing initiatives to expand social justice and to end socioeconomic disparities in their communities.
JCC students were selected for their diabetes awareness campaign targeting area youth; an important program for a state that is among the nation’s worst in diabetes diagnoses and diabetes as a risk factor in pregnancy-related deaths among black women.
Last week, Saint Augustine’s University held a public mental health fair on campus with an emphasis on mental health wellness and suicide prevention. The fair was timely for many reasons on a college campus, where suicide ideation among students, according to a recent survey, now impacts one out of every five students.
But it is even more important for North Carolina’s military communities, where suicide rates among active duty and retired military personnel are rising with fewer victims showing prior histories of mental illness.
We often look at events like these as run-of-the-mill student community service or the average town-gown outreach effort. But in black communities, where citizens struggle with access to health care resources and information, they are critical programs which in theory and practice, can save someone’s life.
The programs are implemented without much in the way of funding, workers, or support from state and federal resources. Often, they are established out of the concern of students or alumni of a campus, who may not know the specific statistical disparities impacting their communities, but can see plainly where suffering lives among neighbors and friends.
These kinds of programs are at HBCUs nationwide. At some of the better resourced campuses, the outreach takes the form of record-breaking federally funded research and awareness building; like Tuskegee University Professor Clayton Yates’ $8.5 million effort to build intractable disease awareness among black communities in the Bible belt.
But it is the smaller campuses in towns like Hawkins, Texas or black communities in gentrifying cities like Raleigh, NC that continue to make big differences in the lives of residents being passed over by industrial revolution or retraction. That’s something worth remembering when we think about what HBCU worth and investment really means, and where it matters most.