The CIAA basketball tournament celebrated its 75th year February 25-29, 2020. While others were excited about the other events that took place during the tournament, I was mostly excited about the CIAA Education Day for high school students. The CIAA Education Day is a day during the basketball tournament where you have representatives from 13 institutions of higher learning in the same location providing students the opportunity of a college education and scholarship opportunities. I was excited about exposing some of my students to something positive that promotes higher education and also seeing some our local high school graduates participating in the tournament as college students.
The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) is the nation’s first African American athletic conference and one of the most recognized conferences in Division II. The basketball tournament has spent the past 15 years in Charlotte and will head to Baltimore, Maryland next year. The CIAA, formerly known as the Colored Athletic Association is comprised of 13 colleges. They include: Livingstone College, Johnson C. Smith University, Winston Salem State University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Shaw University, Fayetteville State University, St. Augustine’s University, Elizabeth City University, Bowie State University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, Chowan University, and Claflin University.
Rowan Salisbury Schools Were Well Represented!
During the opening session, the college bands and cheerleaders led a welcoming party. It was great seeing the unity among each college when the band and cheerleaders played and danced to a song that they learned as a group. Their motivational speakers, who encouraged high school students to do well and achieve their goals, were also there. The CIAA Education Day theme was “A Culture of Belonging.” North Rowan, South Rowan, Salisbury, West Rowan, and Rowan Early College students had the awesome opportunity of participating in the annual CIAA Education this year. I had the privilege of taking 22 high school students from South Rowan. Four of the graduating seniors were accepted into colleges. Some of them had never heard of the CIAA Education Day and didn’t know that the schools were a part of the conference.
Frank Strong, JROTC Aerospace Science Instructor, along with Tesha Smith, Career Development Coordinator, accompanied 25 students from Salisbury High School, 15 seniors and 10 juniors. Mrs. Smith indicated that their seniors received acceptances from several schools, such as four from Johnson C. Smith and three from Shaw University. There were other students still waiting upon acceptance. The juniors enjoyed the experience of learning about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) through their academic opportunities and historical journey of success for students. Their overall experience of CIAA Education Day was great exposure for students.
Sakinah Riley, English instructor at Rowan County Early College and also a proud St. Augustine’s University graduate, chaperoned 12 students. Most of the students commented on how good it was that students were recognized for academic performance in front of such a large audience. “As a teacher and a product of a CIAA conference school, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride each year that I bring students to CIAA Education Day, especially seeing how the students are educated on the history of HBCUs. It is exhilarating! It’s a deep breath of relief that our students realize that there are institutions operating and catering to African American students and will thoroughly prepare them for the future they envision,” Riley remarked.
Mrs. Riley also accompanied her students to see Livingstone College play at the Bojangles Arena. She indicated that it was a beautiful feeling being away from Salisbury, while having so many Livingstone students, alumni, and friends represented at the game. Many of her students never saw Livingstone College play, but seeing the stadium filled with powder blue paraphernalia and smiling faces, cheering for the bears seemed to bring a different sense of awareness about an institution that has produced some of the greatest philanthropists, advocates, business persons, and educators in Salisbury.
Herman Peterson, Senior Army JROTC Instructor, also proud alumni of Winston Salem State University, has been taking students to the CIAA since 2008. Ben Laster, Army JROTC Instructor, and Gail Funderburke, Business Education Instructor, also chaperoned the West Rowan High School students. The students prepared for the CIAA Education Day by completing college applications, resumes, obtaining reference letters, official transcripts, and ACT/SAT scores. Mr. Peterson indicated that many of the students had been accepted on the spot and even received scholarships to attend the colleges represented. The students from West enjoyed seeing a glimpse of the HBCU life, the camaraderie of the students from other schools, and the excitement of the basketball games. Back in 2012, one of West Rowan’s students won a Macbook while at CIAA Education Day.
It’s So Hard to Say GOODBYE!
This year was amazing! I am going to miss CIAA Education Day and being able to give our students this awesome opportunity. The organizers of CIAA Education have done a phenomenal job planning and welcoming the students in the surrounding area. This has opened so many doors and provided opportunities for our students who may not have the chance to go to college. The CIAA Education Day will be sorely missed from this area in the years to come.
As people across America took time to reflect on life’s blessings for another Thanksgiving holiday this week, Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington had a message of thanks to bestow on the system’s many employees.