Florida A&M is one of the nation’s largest HBCUs, catering to thousands of students with promises of “excellence with care.”
Many FAMU students are first-generation, whereas others have chosen to follow in family members’ footsteps to continue the Rattler tradition.
Alexis Johnson, 17, a first-year pharmacy student from Miami, was born into a family of Rattlers.
“All of my cousins, uncles and a couple of my aunts attended FAMU,” Johnson said. “I knew that if they went to FAMU and they were successful people, that maybe if I went FAMU then I could be even a greater person than I already am.”
Family also played a role in Deallen Hobbs’ decision to attend FAMU. Hobbs, 19, is a second-year physical therapy student from Pensacola.
“My uncle told me that this university was a good university to go to, and it has a great legacy,” he said.
Shoaleh James, 21, is a fourth-year public relations student from Miami and second-generation Rattler. Her mother and father have degrees in education and her sister majored in nursing.
“I can’t get this nowhere else,” James said. “I can’t get the experience, I can’t get the tradition – this is like home. My whole family is college educated.“
A college education is expected in James’ family. Her grandparents were formally educated in the 1970s, her grandfather being a bank teller and her grandmother a nurse. From their three sons, Lawrence James, Shoaleh’s father, was the only child who went to college.
After attending FAMU, Lawrence graduated from St. Thomas University. He met his wife Carolyn James-Frederick, who also attended an HBCU, and gave birth to their first daughter, Shantell James.
“My older sister went to FAMU because of my father and I went to FAMU because of my sister, “ James said. “This is what they did. I’m doing the same thing they do because I like following in their footsteps, even though it’s a challenge.”
James wants to use her degree in public relations to educate students in on-the-job training programs with media related coursework.
“I feel that teaching is a hard job,” James said. “You have to deal with all types of children. It’s difficult, you have to have a passion for it, but I want to teach to say that I did it and that I touched people. “
James will continue her family’s legacy and plans to receive her degree in 2013.