By Emmanuel Freeman
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University continues to attract the best and brightest from across the nation.
Nine graduating seniors, each with a 4.0 grade point average from Mt. Healthy High School in Cincinnati, have committed to attend TSU this fall.
TSU President Glenda Glover and university officials welcomed three of the students, who along with their school principal, Thomas Hill, visited the campus Thursday.
The other six students will visit TSU after their school’s graduation ceremony on May 26, Hill said. They are all being admitted with full scholarships.
Glover described the students’ visit as “a great day” for Tennessee State University.
“These high achievers made a great choice by selecting to come to Tennessee State University,” she said. “They are part of the elite scholars we continue to attract who value the world-class programs and quality education offered here in a caring community of faculty, staff and administrators who are committed to excellence.”
The three students — Jierre Franklin, Gelanie Jones and Derrick Sanders — said a special bond they share led them to attend the same college. They grew up in the same neighborhood, attended the same elementary and middle schools, and are about to graduate from the same high school.
“We have been friends for 10 years,” said Sanders, who plans to major in business, as well as join the gospel choir. “This school has a great legacy with graduates like Oprah Winfrey, Duke Ellington. I saw the choir perform with Jennifer Hudson, one of my favorite singers, and that really impressed me.”
Another attraction for the students is that they all wanted to attend an HBCU, according to Hill.
“I am a first-year principal in a school with a predominantly African-American student population,” said Hill, who is Caucasian. “We have kids who can compete with anybody in the country, and their desire to attend an HBCU was a preference of theirs. I look at them as my children. All of the students coming here are honor students and I am extremely proud of them.”
For Franklin, a percussionist in her school band, who plans to major in biology and join the TSU marching band, her interest in an HBCU started as a freshman when she accompanied a relative on a college tour.
“That tour was an HBCU college tour and I remember the environment was exactly somewhere I wanted to be,” Franklin said. “Here at TSU it feels like family, and I like the band here.”
Jones, who also plans to major in biology and play on the tennis team, is not a stranger to TSU. His older sister is a junior here, and he said that will help keep him focused.
“I think my sister being here is going to help me to stay on track,” said Jones, the second of three children. “I have been here plenty of times. I have attended Homecoming. I love everything about this school. It’s like a family.”
Audrey Strafford is TSU’s assistant director of Institutional Support (One-Stop Shop), and formerly a longtime financial aid staff, who received the students from Cincinnati. She thinks the students’ “unique” relationship gives them a big advantage to succeed.
“When I find students like these, it makes my heart beat faster because this is what TSU is made of … this is our legacy,” Strafford said. “I am just so proud they have a principal who would extend himself to make sure these students get a quality education.”
Terrance Izzard, TSU’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success, said TSU is “a perfect place for them to grow and to soar.”
“The fact that TSU is a place for family, it makes it wholesome that these young people, who have been knowing each other from grade school and now they are matriculating through college together, are joining our family here at TSU. It is going to be a great experience for all of them.”
Franklin, Jones and Sanders come to TSU as part of a millennial generation of high achieving students that the university continues to strategically recruit in its effort to improve retention and graduation rates. This comes on the heels of sweeping changes TSU President Glover announced in 2016 that raised admission standards to attract the best and brightest.