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Generation to Generation: A Family Passes Down The HBCU Tradition

One point of pride for many parents is when their children attend the same college they did, for the Brandon family, that happened with an HBCU.

A warmth subsided over Ronald Brandon II, 58, the moment he stepped onto the campus of the then-Hampton Institute in 1972. He wouldn’t be the first in his family to attend this HBCU, nor the last, but he knew it would be his “Home By the Sea.”

Now as a Hampton alum, he realizes how this institution perpetuates the importance of legacy and preservation of these sacred places by furthering the lineage through his daughter Zahria.

“The Hampton experience has stood the test of time for my family and we have all benefited immensely from our collective family experience,” said Brandon, a 1986 Hampton University graduate.

As a fifth generation Hamptonian, Brandon was bound to encounter the university. But in the summer of 1972, Brandon noticed a dynamic that encompassed the institution while simply helping his cousin move in -- everyone was a part of the same family.

College isn’t just a place of study for some, but a home away from home which explains why HBCU graduates feel the need to pass their experiences along.

“After attending an HBCU, I think the majority of HBCU graduates will say, you have a better understanding of yourself. I wanted my daughter to experience and feel the intellectual love,” Brandon told BET.com.

Courtesy: Robert and Zahria Brandon

Robert (L) and Zahria Brandon.

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Universities offer scholarships and host programs dedicated to securing enrollment of their alumni’s children.

At Morehouse School of Medicine, the MSMLegacy program is designed to allow alumni’s sons and daughters to determine whether their school is right for them through a campus visit, lunch with current students and a session to learn more about admissions.

“Our alumni are the foundation of our institution and we are excited to support our constituents who hope to further their family’s legacy at MSM,” read the program’s website.

Attending an HBCU provides legacy students with educational support and a deep-rooted connection to Black culture that their parents experienced but through their own lens.

Zahria, 21, grew up in Minneapolis where she felt she had “little to no exposure to African American culture,” so choosing Hampton University presented the opportunity to “surround yourself with like minded individuals who have similar ambitions and family backgrounds,” Zahria said.

She chose the place where her family has generations of graduates, and where she will be included in the ties of Hampton University. Her deep lineage encouraged her to run and serve as the 64th Miss Hampton University.

“I came into that role with the understanding of the history of the university and what the school needed in a Miss Hampton,” Brandon told BET.com.

From an early age, she attended homecomings with her father and formed her own image of the university. Throughout her experience as a student she understood what it meant to be a part of the Hampton family.

“Once a Hamptonian, always a Hamptonian. And that sense of family and pride I simply couldn’t have gotten anywhere else or at any other university,” said Zahria.

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