More than 100 prospective college students from Long Island and the New York City metro area set off on a weeklong bus tour of historically Black colleges and universities early Saturday morning. The students will be accompanied by chaperones and members of the local chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity that sponsored the tour.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

Before sunup Saturday, more than 100 students from across Long Island, the New York City metro area and elsewhere began a weeklong, 1,700-plus-mile round-trip journey by bus from New York to Atlanta to visit 13 historically Black colleges and universities.

The HBCU tour is sponsored by the ETL chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the oldest intercollegiate historically African American fraternity, which was founded in 1906. This is the 41st year the Wyandanch-based chapter, through its ETL Foundation, has been sponsoring the tour, officials said.

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Before sunup Saturday, more than 100 students from across Long Island, the New York City metro area and elsewhere began a weeklong, 1,700-plus-mile round-trip journey by bus from New York to Atlanta to visit 13 historically Black colleges and universities.

The HBCU tour is sponsored by the ETL chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the oldest intercollegiate historically African American fraternity, which was founded in 1906. This is the 41st year the Wyandanch-based chapter, through its ETL Foundation, has been sponsoring the tour, officials said.

"We have 115 young men and young women of high school age" going on the tour, chapter president William Mills said in an interview Friday. "Most of them are from Nassau and Suffolk County — as far out as Bridgehampton and as close as Hempstead," where the students will depart on three buses. They will be accompanied by 31 chaperones, Mills said.

From left, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity members Anthony Thompson of Wyandanch, chapter president William Mills of Central Islip, and Alain Joseph of West Hempstead will be among those escorting more than 100 students from across Long Island on a weeklong bus tour of historically Black colleges and universities. 

undefined Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

He added that the group also will include students from "the five boroughs of New York City, and even Westchester County, Orange County and Albany." In addition, students from California, Rhode Island, Indiana, Maryland and Virginia will be a part of the tour, the result of the fraternity's social media posts that attracted attention. The Maryland and Virginia students will join the tour buses when they arrive in Maryland, Mills said.

"We want our students to know the value of education" and what is offered at HBCUs, which they may not know much about, Mills said.

"It’s a great educational opportunity about why these schools were formed. If I put a young man or young woman on a campus and they see other young men and women who look like them, so many times it strikes a chord with that student. It may make a difference between going to college or not going. It's great motivation," he said.

Mills said students were required to get permission from their schools, and to get their homework assignments, adding that study time is scheduled during the tour.

Students and chaperones load the bus early Saturday morning. Credit: Howard Schnapp

They will visit Morgan State University and Bowie State University in Maryland; Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta; North Carolina A&T State University and North Carolina Central University; Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Virginia Union University, and Virginia State University; and Howard University in Washington, D.C. 

In the nation's capital, they also will visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The campus visits will conclude next Saturday at Delaware State University. 

Parents interviewed Friday said they wanted their children to have that exposure.

"I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for her to not only visit these historically Black colleges and universities and be exposed to the environments," but to help get "acclimated to the college experience," said Karyn Smith, whose daughter Sydney is a 17-year-old senior at North Babylon High School. "I think it’s a good stepping stone to get her prepared," Smith said. "They have to get on the bus. They have to room with people they don’t know."

Sydney added: "Because I do go to a predominantly white school, I definitely want to see more … things I've been missing out on." 

Marcrina Robinson of Southampton, the mother of Taylor Robinson, a 16-year-old junior at Southampton High School, said she was thrilled to hear about the tour and was planning to drive her daughter from Southampton about 1:30 a.m. Saturday to reach Hempstead to make the 4:30 a.m. departure time.

Robinson said it was an opportunity she didn't want her daughter to miss. "I never had the time to block off a week to travel to go to several schools. But this tour is going to several." She said her daughter is a good student and will take school assignments with her on the tour. 

"It's an educational trip. The benefits to me outweigh the fact she’ll be missing a week" of school, Robinson said.