Courtesy Photo-Ward Beard
Ward “Skillz” Beard is a graduate of the Historically Black College, Alabama A & M University, located in Normal, Alabama, near Huntsville. He decided as a high school student to attend a Black college and knew this was the school for him when participating on the Annual Lansing Black College Tour by Fred Porter and Amel Eiland.They visited several colleges, but he was drawn to Alabama A &M because of the beautiful campus and how quickly he was accepted to the university. Upon his arrival, Ward discovered that one of his best friends went there and had already acclimated to the University with a working knowledge of its ins and outs.
“A primary reason that I wanted to go there was because they wanted me too,” Ward said. Another attractive feature about the University was “the beauty of its campus”. It reflected “a peaceful, relaxing feel that I felt was conducive for an academic environment. The atmosphere just appeared to be people-friendly.” Beard liked the fact that “there was a lot of people from across the country.”
A key academic factor was that the campus “was small enough to get help and build relationship with the instructors” which is critical for student success. Another asset, in Ward’s opinion was the financial aid accommodations. There were few, if any obstacles to acquiring and maintaining his stream of financial support, which “is one less thing to worry about as a college student.” “Financial Aid was a fairly straightforward process at Alabama A & M if your grades are in order.” he added. “Grades can make or break you so take heed early. If you’re in middle school, get on top of your math, develop and strengthen those skills so you won’t have to take a lot of remedial classes when you get on campus. The worst thing is, as a student, is to play catch up when you’re focused on getting that degree.”
Ward encountered a minor setback early in his college career when a medical situation forced him back home for surgery. The leave required a long took time to physically recover from. As soon as he was able, however, he went back to school to resume his studies.
“Upon returning to campus, I realized I should have dropped or withdrawn from my classes before leaving and didn’t. This negatively affected my grade point average and financial aid status. Because of that, I was placed on academic probation and had to enroll as a part-time student for a while. I could only take nine credits a semester until I earned enough to regain my full-time status. I would not be eligible for financial aid again until I raised my GPA. The journey was costly, difficult and often discouraging if you’re not determined to succeed. I was determined, and I did it!”
His advice to college students whose life situations cause them to take a break from college is to learn what is required beforehand and do what’s necessary to get that degree. “Stick it out and finish,” Beard said. It’s no secret that HBCU’S are infamous for the social