Bronx students headed to top-choice colleges following tour of HBCUs

Bronxites Ryan Logan (left) and Kamani Williams (right, in black top) are both headed to their top choice colleges following a tour of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Photo courtesy Harry M. Watson II

Two Bronx students are soon heading to their dream colleges following a special tour that brought them to nine historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in less than a week. 

The tour, which spans Maryland to Georgia, is a way to “get kids out of New York City and show something other than the concrete jungle,” said Harry Watson, who attended the tour as a high school student and leads the tours for young people today. 

Ryan Logan of White Plains will attend Winston-Salem State University and Kamani Williams of the South Bronx will attend Clark Atlanta University. Both students told the Bronx Times they never would have known much about these schools without the HBCU tour, which originated in 1986 and is now in its second year of partnership with the city Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). The fraternity Omega Psi Phi supported Logan and Williams throughout their journey.

The commissioner said the tours are a meaningful way to pay it forward.  

“As a proud member of the first Black Greek fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, I was thrilled to launch the HBCU tours so that young people can share my experience: the comradery, civic engagement, educational support and lifetime bonds that come from fraternity and sorority life,” said DYCD Commissioner Keith Howard in a statement. 

Stops on this year’s tours over two sessions included Morehouse College in Atlanta, Norfolk State University in Virginia, Tennessee State University and Howard University in Washington, D.C. Visiting a variety of campuses in different environments was key for Williams and Logan — who were both accepted to several schools — in making their final college commitments. 

“The culture of the different schools will be the reason you select,” said Logan, who said the small community of Winston-Salem State University immediately felt like home — and the programs for his planned majors of mass communications and sports management are top notch.

Williams said she felt the same chemistry at Clark Atlanta, an urban campus where she plans to study dentistry. She had never been to Atlanta and didn’t know much about HBCUs, but Williams said she wanted to stay in a city environment and was sold on the message of “excellence” from those who came before her.

The HBCU tours were made possible by a collaboration between DYCD and Greek organizations in the Divine 9, a coalition of historically Black fraternities and sororities, whose members welcomed students on campuses and helped them get acquainted with college life. Many famous Americans — including Michael Jordan, Zora Neale Hurston and Kamala Harris — are members of  Divine 9 organizations.

The lasting bonds and sense of pride among Divine 9 alumni trickles down to younger generations attending the tours. Not only did students visit campuses, they also attended workshops on what to expect from college life — how to succeed academically, financially and socially. 

And after Williams and Logan begin at their selected schools, they will still receive support.

“We keep up with our scholars over the years” through cookouts, networking and fundraising events and parent contact, said Watson.

According to DYCD, the 2023 and 2024 tours yielded 40 early acceptance letters, and 26 of those young people committed to the college of their choice following their tour. Between 2023 and 2024, 247 young people attended the tours over their midwinter or spring break. 

Watson said the tours include an “eclectic” mix of students from all five boroughs — plus occasionally a few from out of state — and it’s not only straight-A students who receive the opportunity. 

From athletes to dancers to musicians, from A to C grade point averages, “We look for well-rounded students,” he said. 

And the tours come at a relatively low cost to families — $650 at most — and Watson said that if that price is still unaffordable for some, the network comes together to help.

For students who attended, the experience was intense but rewarding. According to Williams, the tour involved setting a lot of 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. alarms and sometimes seeing two or three schools in a day. 

But the students agreed that the tour is a significant bonding experience for them and the 45 other young people who attend each session starting off as strangers. 

According to Williams, participants were forced to interact with each other — and, in one awkward but meaningful exercise, stare into another person’s eyes for two whole minutes. “Always get comfortable being uncomfortable” was the motto, she said.

Logan said he isn’t usually one to engage with unfamiliar people, but during the tour, he said he loved “being able to bond with a lot of people around [him].”

Through their experience on the HBCU tours, Logan and Williams gained much more than just admission to their first-choice colleges. They gained lifelong friends and mentors and holistic support as they soon begin their college and career journeys. 

“It gave me an experience with a second family,” said Logan.

This article was updated on June 6 at 9:05 a.m. to correct the name of Winston-Salem State University and cost of the tour and to add the name of the fraternity supporting the students. 

Reach Emily Swanson at or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes