Nicole Barnwell (253729)
Credit: Contributed

Nicole Barnwell is making sure that students in the Tri-State area know that historically Black colleges and universities are an option when it comes to higher education. Through her nonprofit organization The HBCU Hub, Inc., she’s making sure every child has the opportunity to learn about Black colleges.

A graduate of Hampton University, Barnwell started The HBCU Hub, Inc. as an Instagram account in 2015 where she posted local events about Black colleges such as college fairs.

“When I first started, I found that a lot of young people in the area didn’t know what HBCUs were,” Barnwell said. “I wanted to do something about this. I felt it was necessary to bring awareness and to increase the movement.”

As she was getting to know the high school scene she noticed a disturbing trend. Many school counselors were detouring students from attending HBCUs. Barnwell said it is in part because of the promotion of CUNY and SUNY schools and the fact that many counselors aren’t away of the benefits of going to an HBCU.

Barnwell decided to connect local HBCU alumni to help with the effort. She started reaching out to various school alumni groups in New York and New Jersey to strengthen her efforts.

But it’s her own journey going through the Black college experience firsthand that is her real inspiration. A native of Brooklyn, Barnwell attended a college fair where she met with alumni and officials from Hampton University in Virginia and received on-site admission. Attending mostly white schools for most of her life, Barnwell said the experience changed her perspective.

“Hampton was great. It was my first time being on my own and coming across people who were like me,” said. “Going to Hampton opened my eyes to all of the goodness, culture and good things we are capable of and that we can accomplish.”

Barnwell graduated with her degree in accounting in 2008. She currently works as an associate investigator at Prudential.

The HBCU Hub, Inc. has been holding meetings since 2016 and became a nonprofit this year. Barnwell got help from two of her friends who are now board members. Today the organization spreads the word about HBCU happenings in the New York area through its website ( and social media platforms. The organization also hosts youth conversations with HBCU alumni.

“I want the hub to be a place for the HBCU family, regardless of what school you went to,” Barnwell said. “The goal is for alumni who went to HBCUs to have family and a place where they can be involved.”

As for the upcoming year, Barnwell said The HBCU Hub will continue to have a presence at local college fairs, host conversations and collaborate with the Department of Education. The organization also wants to host day trips to nearby HBCUs and eventually do a college tour.