Alfred Street Baptist Church
HBCU College Festival
The legacy and success of the Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU College Festival has a deeply rooted foundation spearheaded by two notable people: First, Alfred Street Baptist Church Pastor Emeritus Rev. John O. Peterson’s (1964-2007) who began the legacy by recognizing one of the Historically Black Colleges/Universities each year; Second, Ms. Vance Davis, who furthered the legacy with her vision of a yearly HBCU festival to introduce scores of students to this form of higher education.
Sometime during the 1960’s, under the leadership of Rev. John O. Peterson, HBCU Sunday evolved. HBCU Sunday was an annual event held on the third Sunday of February for the purpose of recognizing a featured Historical Black College. The President of the featured college was invited to speak during the Sunday morning services and the alumni of that particular school would proudly show up for worship in support of their Alma Mater. The added bonus was a sizable donation given to that school as a show of support from the church.
While HBCU Sunday was a wonderful, thoughtful and supportive event, something appeared missing. After much prayer and thought, Ms. Vance Davis decided to indirectly share her idea of a college festival with Rev. Peterson.
Vance first shared her vision of a college festival to be held on the Saturday before HBCU Sunday with her deacon, Robert Bogan. The idea was to make this effort a Discipleship Group 13 project. Quickly realizing that this would be a tremendous project in need of more support, Vance suggested that Discipleship Group 19 join them in this effort. At that point, the vision was shared with Deacon Alton Wallace. Having DG 19 as part of this effort was a natural match primarily because this was the group in which Henry “Mr. Morehouse” Thompson belonged. And Henry had a good reputation for recruiting young people for college – especially Morehouse. Deacons Bogan and Wallace ran the idea by Rev. Peterson, upon which he asked Vance to submit a written proposal. Having received the blessings of the Senior Pastor, the Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU College Festival was born in the fall of 2002.
The first HBCU College Festival was held on Saturday, February 15, 2003. Members of DG 13 & 19 worked enthusiastically as the official planning committee. The main structure of the college festival consisted of college recruiters. The recruiters were assisted by members of Alfred Street who were alumni of the respective schools. It was a key ingredient to have Alfred Street HBCU alums serve as volunteers during the event dressed in their school’s paraphernalia. That was a perfect way to help the young people associate ASBC members with various HBCUs. It was also a great way for alums to display a show of pride in their schools.
Members of Greek organizations also represented dressed in their Greek attire. Their primary purpose was to talk to students about various scholarship opportunities that were available through their organization. Seminars were conducted by members of the church who were identified as subject matter experts.
Probably the most unforgettable event that occurred during the first HBCU College Festival was the beginning of the Blizzard of 2003. Despite the weather, approximately 150 attendees showed up and about 17 colleges participated. The committee counted it a success. Rev. Peterson was so pleased that at the end of the day he let Vance know that he expected a repeat the following year. What Vance thought would be a one-time project turned out to become a nationally recognized event for many years to come.
Vance went on to serve as Chairperson of the Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU College Festival for ten years. Under her leadership, the festival continued to grow at an amazing rate. So much so that towards the end of her tenure the number of attendees had reached to just around 3000. Students and parents from as far away as California and Alaska have attended this annual event. Since 2003, thousands of students have gained admission to various HBCUs and millions of dollars in scholarships have been awarded.
In 2011 the college festival was moved from the church to TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA. This successful growth was largely contributed to the opportunity of on-site admissions and scholarships on the spot. It was also contributed to the fact that this event had become nationally recognized as one of the most well organized and comprehensive HBCU college festivals in the country. It even got the attention and participation of the Obama White House.
In 2018 nearly 6000 individuals attended the HBCU College Festival with approximately 4000 students and parent/guardians. Recruiters from 62 Colleges/Universities participated to provide information on college admission, financial aid, academic disciplines, and other areas of college life. Other key 2018 stats: 1,155 onsite interviews conducted; over 2,000 waived application fees; 2,117 offers for admission; and $4.8 million in scholarships awarded! The Festival continues to grow and provide valuable access to our beloved HBCUs.