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Voices of Diversity: Historically Black College/University Tour

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - A group of students in the Corridor is getting a brand new opportunity to focus on their future. The Historically Black College and University Tour or HBCU just returned from the first ever trip that included Cedar Rapids students.


George Ramsey, the Director of the HBCU Spring College Tour, originally introduced the tour in Kansas City. For nearly two decades, students in that city have had the opportunity to visit multiple colleges over their Spring Break. But, when George and his wife, Dorice, moved to Cedar Rapids, they decided to bring the tour to the City of Five Seasons. Thus, this year's tour included students from Kansas City and Cedar Rapids.


During the 2014 trip, 77 students visited 12 schools over eight days. Of the students, 17 were from Cedar Rapids, 12 of them received scholarships from the Cedar Rapids School District to attend. Most of the schools visited during the tour were historically black colleges and universities, but not all of them. While the HBCU's generally draw black students to the tour, students of all races were welcome to go.  


It's a trip that changed the course of Tamia Ayoki-Davis' life. Ayoki- Davis likes to challenge herself. That's why the Kennedy High School Senior joined NESBE, the National Society of Black Engineers.


"It definitely made me think a lot more," Ayoki-Davis said.


She wants to go into fashion marketing when she graduates, and NESBE has helped her make a plan on how to get there.


"What we do is a lot of college preparation and scholarship look outs," Ayoki-Davis said.


Thus, when George Ramsey came along with the HBCU Tour, Ayoki-Davis saw it as another way to plan ahead.


"We open up the eyes of the students and give them hope so that they really believe that there are opportunities for them beyond high school, more so than what they ever imagined would ever be possible or would happen to them!" Ramsey said.


"I've applied to all 12 of the schools, so far I've been accepted to seven to eight colleges, and they're still rolling in!" Ayoki-Davis said about her tour success.  


Before NESBE and the tour, she thought community college would be where she'd start her higher education. She has a 2.5 GPA and got a 20 on the ACT, but now she has six scholarships to four-year schools with one that really stands out - Grambling State University in Louisiana.


"They're willing to give me in-state tuition and half tuition which cuts my costs from $22,000 to $6.000 a year," Ayoki-Davis said.


Students prepare college applications ahead of the trip, the fee is waived and sometimes they're accepted and given scholarships on the spot.


"We traveled with 23 seniors on a tour one year, and from that tour, those 23 seniors, we had over $400,000 dollars in scholarship money that was awarded," Ramsey said.


During the tour there is also the opportunity for students to see the sites in the states they visit.


"We got to go to some really cool BBQ places, Memphis has the blues, and I've never seen palm trees before," Ayoki-Davis said.  


If you're interested in learning more about the tour, email:

The tour's sponsor was the Cedar Rapids School District. The tour's partners were Diversity Focus and the Beta Lambda Educational Institute.


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