Words: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins


As a graduate of an HBCU myself, I still look back on my time in college fondly. It’s easy, because the things I gained from going to school still hold weight in my life today. Many of my friends are the ones I met while on campus. A lot of my business connections have come by way of people who rep my alma mater. And for what I do specifically, you’re not going to get a more honest and true snapshot of culture anywhere other than the campus of a Historically Black institution.

One of the biggest hurdles that all students face appears before they even set foot in their dorm room. That hurdle is, of course, the cost of college. Tuition rates are through the roof, and then there’s room and board, books, laptops, food, and the list goes on. Today, students and their families are grappling with these costs in the midst of a global pandemic and school moving online.

The Jordan Brand Wings scholarship program exists to help. Since 2015, Wings has awarded over 1,800 gap scholarships globally, with the aim of lifting this financial burden and promoting youth education. It’s a blessing that all who have paid for or faced the looming costs of college can appreciate.

To learn more about the impact of receiving a Jordan Wings scholarship, I spoke with Adrian Allen and Darrin Francois. Adrian and Darrin are currently juniors enrolled in HBCUs (Hampton University and Tuskegee University, respectively). I asked them about reliving the moment they got the scholarship and the challenges of going to school during a global pandemic. As two people who are leading the next generation, I also asked them about their plans for the future, their love for their HBCU communities and a new Air Jordan I Mid inspired by collegiate homecoming.

If you ever have any doubt about the future…don’t. We’re in good hands with Adrian and Darrin.


ADRIAN ALLEN

Adrian Allen is 21 years old and grew up in the inner city of Philadelphia. She’s currently a junior at Hampton University and is working towards a major in Criminal Justice. Adrian has plans to become a lawyer and has already done impressive activism work focused on voting, as well as internships. Though getting into the law field is often viewed as the “lucrative” choice, Adrian says that she wholeheartedly wants to be of service to the marginalized members in our society. If you ask me, Adrian is wise beyond her years and truly loves her community.

What was your grade school experience like?

I’ve been in public school my whole life. Sometimes, the system doesn’t fully prepare you for college. I was always a well-rounded student, and I always had drive, but I didn’t get serious about the college admissions process until the 12th grade. That’s when I started getting more involved and took on extra curriculars, like becoming Vice President of my school’s student government.

What was your reaction to getting the full-ride Jordan Wings scholarship?

I found out that I got the Jordan Wings scholarship during a meeting for the program Minds Matter, which I thought had already ended. They said there was one last meeting. I showed up, and then they pulled up with the blue box and a certificate that said, “You are now part of the 2018 cohort of the Jordan Wings Scholarship.” I just didn’t know what to say! I was like, “Wow!” My life changed right then and there. My mom was so excited. I’m smart, I had the test scores and I always worked hard, but paying for college was always the issue. They took away the biggest burden, the financial burden.

Why did you want to attend an HBCU?

I wanted to go to a school that would help foster my success and growth. I wanted to be in an environment where there are people who look like me and would understand where I’ve come from. They wouldn’t put me down for not knowing certain things. Yet they would also provide me with different perspectives. They would have my back and help me with what I need help with. I would be able to see professors and other successful people to get inspired and keep going.

Hampton University is a family. It gave me a home away from home. It’s also a smaller school, so it’s been easier to foster relationships with like-minded friends and connect with alumni.

How would you describe homecoming at an HBCU?

Sometimes, we’re so consumed with work, and there’s no time for play. Homecoming Week gives you time to take a full break, express yourself and enjoy yourself. The alumni come back, so you get to have conversations with them. It’s like a free networking event, because everyone is there. You won’t really find an event like Homecoming anywhere else, except for at an HBCU.

Voting has become a big part of your activism. Why should we vote?

Politics are happening whether you decide to engage with them or not. Decisions are being made for your life. Our voice is our right to vote. It’s important to pull your own seats to the table, not only to vote, but to keep decision makers accountable for how they are representing you. Voting is the first step.

What do you like about the Air Jordan I Mid Let(her)man?

I feel what Jordan Brand was going for with the collegiate letterman jacket inspiration. When I think of letterman jackets, I definitely think of hard work and dedication. That’s what HBCUs are about. It’s a symbol of repping something or being proud of something.


DARRIN FRANCOIS

Darrin Francois is 20 years old and grew up in New Orleans. Prior to enrolling in college, he earned over $3 million in scholarships and was accepted into 91 universities! Darrin ultimately selected Tuskegee University, where he is currently a junior majoring in Political Science. Like many students across the country, Darrin is attending classes from home. I caught up with him to learn about his journey, why he wants to help other young people with the college admissions process and how the Wings Scholarship changed his life. It’s clear to me that Darrin is just getting started.

What was the college application process like for you?

There was an amazing program at my high school called College Track that helps you with everything from college admissions to budgeting and joining organizations. They helped me a lot. I sat down with my college advisor every day for a week and a half after school, and I applied to 100 schools, I believe. I got in to 91 of them.

What was your reaction to getting the full-ride Jordan Wings scholarship?

I have a single mom who just couldn’t help me pay for all four years of college, especially because I have a younger sibling. I didn’t feel that it was wise for me to put that burden on her. The Jordan Wings program sees you for you and knows your worth. I’m happy they know my worth. I’m mentoring a friend who’s a fellow Wings scholar. I love that this scholarship has brought so many of us together.

Why did you want to attend an HBCU?

My sister went to Dillard University, an HBCU. I just thought that I would continue the legacy. That eliminated a lot of schools from my list. I based my decision on the environment, class to teacher ratio, my major and the support groups they have for individuals like myself. Going to an HBCU is a very different college experience. It’s more than just your skin color. People come from all over. That’s what I love about Tuskegee University. Even though it’s in the middle of nowhere, I’ve gotten to meet more people, join different organizations and just be active around campus.

How would you describe homecoming at an HBCU?

Homecoming is a family reunion. You meet new family members, and you see the old ones. You have a good time, especially at Tuskegee! I’ve met so many alumni who have heard my story and who wanted to help me through the rest of college. That’s made me feel really blessed, to see that people are really looking out for me. People are seeing me doing this. I’m just…I’m happy. I have that surreal feeling. I still have it after two years, it’s still there.

What do you like about the Air Jordan I Mid Let(her)man?

To see a sneaker that’s inspired by college homecoming is incredible, especially coming from the Jordan Brand. It’s mind blowing! The letterman jacket inspiration is amazing, because it tells a story. Whether it makes you think about Greek life or athletes, if you’re wearing it, you’re telling your story, like “This is me. This is who I am. This is who I want you to know I am.”

You’ve been vocal about wanting to help others who’ve had the same struggles you have. What’s your message to young people right now?

Don’t feel discouraged. You’ll have trials and tribulations with everything in life. Some people fight it, and some people “flight it.” You want to be the person that fights through this tough time. You might have a tough time later today. You have to persevere through it. Sometimes, school can be too much, but I tell myself every day, “You’re going to do it.” The end result is that you’re going to be somebody, with your name big in the sky, and all the people smiling at you. You’re going to be that popular person for the next 10 years – your name on billboards and all of that. You’re somebody’s role model. So just keep pushing and never take anything for granted.


The WMNS Air Jordan I Let(Her)Man is available starting November 18 from SNKRS, Jordan.com, DTLR and The Athlete’s Foot.

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