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  • Writer's pictureJacinth Jones

Meet the HBCU Class of COVID-19

No caps. No gowns. No commencement. No graduation. 

By the time the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, students had less than a week to pack their belongings, drive or fly back to their hometowns and revert to online instruction to finish working toward their degree. Leaving was inevitable, but not like this. 

The symbolic walk across the stage, the turning of the tassel, the conjured moments of nostalgia and grad week’s endless moves, pre-games and turn-ups has either been cancelled, postponed or hosted virtually due to COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. 

Although the virus signaled an abrupt and premature end to most seniors’ undergraduate collegiate careers, 10 HBCU graduating seniors reminisced on the past four years and spoke to how their alma mater changed them for the better.

Here is their virtual and final goodbye that could not be made in person. 

1. Jessica Purnell | Prairie View A&M University

Credit: Colin Taylor

Though our senior year did not end how we anticipated, we have been granted extraordinary experiences we can only get at PVAMU.  

Thank you, Prairie View, for the many opportunities you have offered me. Here, I learned you do not need a title to lead. Thank you for bringing people into my life who I will value forever. Thank you to my friends for all the great memories made during homecoming and Spring Fest.

Thank you for the study sessions, supporting me in all my endeavors as senior class president and listening to my many problems. Thank you to my family for always being there during the hard times, but also supporting my overwhelming ideas. 

Lastly, thank you to my mother. Thank you for always being my motivation to succeed and want better. May you rest in peace. 

Now Prairie View, it is time for me to go. I would not trade my experiences here for anything. I am proud to be a graduate from THE Prairie View A&M University. 


2. John Bowers | Morehouse College

Dear Ole Morehouse, 

I knew this time would come; I just did not know how. In a perfect world, our senior year would have kept a normal trajectory and path. That was not the plan. However, the Lord had another one for the class of 2020 and myself. 

For me, this ride to Mother Morehouse started in 2016 and every year these 66 acres have changed sometimes for the better; other times for the worse. But Mother Morehouse is still standing and so are we. In this time of uncertainty, we should reflect and digest but never let our burning ambitions dwindle. The world saw what Morehouse did for the 20th century and we are just getting started in the 21st.

I say all this to thank everyone I was able to meet along my Morehouse journey not only as SGA President, but as a young student as well. It is because of this very journey that I will be forever indebted to our beloved institution. 

With that, this isn’t truly goodbye but a see you later. 

Steadfast, Honest, True, 




3. Chigozie Chinakwe | Tuskegee University

Credit: Clarence Wilson

To Mother Tuskegee,

There is a reason why we refer to Tuskegee University as Mother Tuskegee. A mother is

known to nurture her children to their fullest potential, and fulfill the needs of her children

before their wants. This is exactly what Mother Tuskegee has done for me. Tuskegee is more than just “Ballin' Parlay,” The Shed and homecoming. Mother Tuskegee is my foundation and most importantly the everlasting pride of the swift growing South

When I stood at her gates four years ago, I instantly knew I belonged with her. 

As my heart pounded with the beat of The Shed on March 19, I stood at the Lincoln Gates and watched Booker T. Washington look over his legacy one final time. I could not believe the bitter ending to our beautiful story. 

#TU20, remember the true “Tuskegee way” is taking care of our own like Mother Tuskegee has done for us. Pass down tradition.


4. Asiah Sias | Southern University

COVID-19 robbed me of my final months as an undergraduate student.

Although I am saddened by the delay of that final celebratory moment, this pandemic cannot rob my memories and the impact Southern had on me. I will always treasure the bonds built with classmates and mentors. I am also grateful for the life-long friendships and every experience Southern had to offer. 

Southern molded me into the capable and confident, young Black woman I am today. The endless days and sleepless nights were worth it. I am appreciative of the unparalleled feeling of family and culture my university gave me. 

Although my senior year is not ending in an ideal way, I am proud to finally call Southern my alma mater.


5. Elyse London | Spelman College

Consider each day a blessing, cherish your loved ones, limit complaining and live each day

intentionally. These are some of the lessons I learned along this journey of adapting to

a life of social distancing as a graduating senior at Spelman College. 

In the midst of uncertainty and the postponement of monumental milestones such as commencement, I chose to hone in and pull strength from the memories made and sisterhood that reigns at Spelman. 

As I reflect on my time as an undergraduate, I am moved into a place of gratitude. So here is a thank you to Spelman College. 

Thank you for building me up holistically as a Black woman. Thank you for pushing me past my subconscious limits and reminding me I, Elyse London, am limitless. Thank you for providing an academic experience second to none. Thank you for enforcing my purpose. Thank you for allowing me to experience the love and resilience that roams throughout your gates. 

Thank you, Jesus, for ordering my steps to Spelman College.


6. Tayler Christian | Howard University

Although I am not there physically,  I have never felt more connected to the student body than now. The process of losing something I found myself taking for granted has been a demystifying revelation. How precious is the physical experience of friendship, knowledge and historical standard.

In this time, the world has slowed. We can hear a call to treasure and honor Howard by engaging in celebration alongside our peers as frequently and presently as possible.

#HU20, I hope our spirits can be settled in remembering our beautiful moments. This

world will know our legacy, and will move and shake with the impacts of our excellence.

Howard, I love you. You have given and taught me so much; my gratitude is unceasing and love is unbounded.

Always in truth and service,



7. Stephen Michael | Morgan State University

Credit: Omari Photography

On Aug. 13, 2016 -- I made a declaration on social media by saying "I'm Ready For You Morgan State."

But what was I ready for? At that current moment, I was a curious young man from a privileged upbringing that was cushioned even more with being raised in the church. Was I really ready? 

Four years later, I can say Morgan State taught me how to be ready -- and stay ready. Between ministry, student leadership, internships and creative affairs, I grew as a leader and as a man. 

Morgan, thank you for breaking me down and building me back up. Thank you for forcing me out of my box and fully embracing the seasons I went through. My potential was embraced even before I realized it. Through this, I walked in places I would have never expected. 

Because of Morgan State, I am ready for my next chapter.  And with that, I'm a Bear for life.


8. Alexis Shavers | Texas Southern University

Credit: Asia Tilford

It is hard to say goodbye. However, it is easier leaving knowing I will continue to build upon the likes of Barbara Jordan, Michael Strahan and Yolanda Adams. 

Thank you to my new friends I now call family. I leave with a multitude of perspectives, memories and networks that will be cherished. Thank you to my orgs: Collegiate 100, Intervarsity, Thomas F. Freeman Honors College, HER, NAACP,  YoungLife, MAPS, SGA and Royal Court. I have found solace, growth and knowledge in you. 

I thank my prophytes and the Delta Gamma Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. for teaching genuine sisterhood and bringing out the best in me. You have seen my highs and lows but I will always continue to move forward and reach back. 

Thank you TSU for being you. I have grown exponentially. I am grateful for my wins, but most importantly my losses. Those truly made me a better servant, lover and leader.

In my heart you’ll always stay, as you lead me on my way. TSU, TSU, I love you.


9. Kiera Nelson | North Carolina A&T State University

Credit: Alexis Brown Photography

To the school that took me in with open arms and treated me like family since day one, thank you.

As I count down the days that would have been special to me, I reflect on the times I had at A&T. Thank you for the experiences and the lifelong family.

It is not every day you get to experience an illustrious university like A&T but I had the privilege of having it. I learned how to navigate a world that used to seem too big for me. I learned how to take my losses as lessons and grow into the strong empowered woman I am today.

A&T, this may not be the most optimal ending but that does not change how I feel about you.

Thank you for everything.


10. Candace Wright | Clark Atlanta University

To my beautiful institution,

There are simply not enough words to express the gratitude I have for you. Because of you, I believe I can achieve anything. By applying such strong mottos like “Culture for Service” and “I’ll Find a Way or Make One," my perspective of life has greatly changed.

You have groomed me into a better woman, friend and student. Due to the challenges I have faced within the last four years, one of the biggest lessons you have taught me is perseverance. Although we split ways earlier than planned, I am truly grateful for you.

Thank you Clark Atlanta University for lifelong friends, memories and love. Continue to shine your light on the students to come.



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