Education was an important discussion in the household of Andres Martin, the founder of nonprofit HBCU Night. As a first-generation college student, Martin had the opportunity to be someone great. He was determined to make his mother, who had encouraged the pursuit of college within their household, proud.
During the HBCU Night founder’s senior year of high school, one of the most pivotal years for a student prior to beginning college, he received a discouraging message from his guidance counselor.
“With grades like these, you won’t even get into community college,” said the counselor.
The words would resonate with the Connecticut-native but they would not shake his spirit. Developing a plan with his mother and aunt, they were able to strategize a game plan for Andres Martin to attend college. It was this decision that would lead Martin to Dallas, TX upon graduation where he would visit Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M and Grambling State. Visiting those campuses exposed him to HBCU culture and was the spark that led Martin to want to become a pioneer in his own right.
Martin would eventually begin his studies at Grambling State, where he pursued sports management with a minor in history. While attending the HBCU, Martin claims it was one of his best experiences. He credits this to the support system he received through academic resources and the examples of Black excellence within his classrooms and amongst his peers. Martin’s time at Grambling State left him feeling empowered and would directly lay the foundation for his future entrepreneurial visions. His turning point began here, and now Martin believes other students can experience a similar shift in their lives by attending an HBCU.
Utilizing his sports management degree, Andres Martin would land the incredible opportunity to work with the National Basketball Association (NBA). While working here, he recognized a lack of exposure for HBCUs and he wanted to make it his mission to advocate for Black colleges. Martin would pitch a multifaceted event to bring to the grand stage of the NBA arenas in 2015, which encompassed college fairs, career fairs, panels, alumni, fundraisers and more.
By 2019, Martin’s pitch would evolve into an award-winning nonprofit HBCU Night reaching over 38,000 students and reportedly earning those students over $52 million in scholarships in 2020 alone.
HBCU Night “exudes Black excellence” due to the pride and joy former HBCU alumni carry throughout the event and by creating a table welcoming Black students to opportunities that may not have been afforded to them otherwise.
“HBCU night has been a wonderful opportunity that helped us essentially steer the ship to educate, accommodate, celebrate, and matriculate Black and brown communities with our event programming resources,” Martin says exclusively to AfroTech.
HBCU Night can also be found online through “A DiGiTAL WORLD” that embodies the same operations of the in-person event but rather than students going from table to table, they can now surf different colleges from channel to channel. Students have access to virtual admissions tables, HBCU fairs, career fairs, panels, competitions and other HBCU entertainment free of charge. The purpose of the digital landscape is to accelerate the enrollment of students in HBCUs by at least 20 percent, offer over $50 million in potential scholarships annually, land half of attendees’ jobs, spread the HBCU spirit and raise awareness throughout the digital landscape, the company website says.
The virtual program will continue throughout 2021 and the students can expect to experience the iconic HBCU Night once again when it returns to arenas beginning in February of 2022.
HBCU Night Children's Book
Martin’s work for HBCUs doesn’t stop here. The HBCU alum, who attended both Grambling State and Howard University, wanted the experience to be accessible to children. With that said, the 31-year-old released the “HBCU Night” children’s book. The book follows the young mind of “Imani” who is ambitious and eager to learn more about HBCUs. In a comedic and heartwarming tale, she can discover Black excellence by tapping into the multifaceted event and enjoying what Andre calls “the greatest HBCU celebration on earth.”
“I always tell people, ‘the book is as an experience in itself.’ We do have some fun in the book, but it doesn’t lose sight of the journey to learn. I always ran with the mantra when I first started this. It’s never too early to learn about college and especially to learn about HBCUs,” Andres Martin said.