Why I Picked Tuskegee University

A member of the Class of 2012 discusses her decision to attend Tuskegee University.


Jessica Leonard, Class of 2012

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The founder and first president of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, often said that students should be taught "to study actual things instead of mere books alone" in order that they become an "undeniable value to the community."

As a native of Birmingham, Ala., I could see his words and actions brought to life every day by Tuskegee graduates who were making a difference in my neighborhood and throughout the city. Being exposed to these positive role models really opened my eyes to what Tuskegee was all about, making my choice an easy one.

When I arrived on campus in August 2008, the biggest surprise was to hear "my story" from students I met who were equally as inspired by Washington's academic and community development philosophy. Since then, these classmates, as well as my professors, have inspired and challenged me to live that story. Has it always been easy? No. But I have grown immensely as a person at Tuskegee and continue to push myself to live up to Washington's words, whether as a recent inductee to Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society; an executive board member of the Mayor's Historically Black Colleges and Universities Youth Council in Tuskegee; a student reporter for The Tuskegee News; or a research fellow at the Leadership Alliance Summer Research-Early Identification Program at Columbia University.

Tuskegee has been an experience I will always treasure. And one day, perhaps, by meeting the challenges of an ever-changing society head-on, I can become that positive, Tuskegee-grad role model for another high schooler.

Tuskegee was founded in 1881 in exchange for a pledge by former slave Lewis Adams to deliver the black vote to Alabama state Sen. W. F. Foster.

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