FAMU is in my DNA

Ila as a young girl.
Ila Wilborn | The Famuan

As a young girl, I can remember playing around on the campus of Florida A&M University during Homecoming. Every year around the beginning of autumn, my parents would check my sister and I out of school and we’d ride down from Atlanta to Tallahassee for the weekend to see my mother’s family and my parents’ old college friends. The trips to FAMU easily became a highlight during my childhood years. 

Ivan Wilborn as a Head Drum Major in 1983.
Ila Wilborn | The Famuan

I first fell in love with the College of Love and Charity through Homecoming. Seeing a sea of citrus orange and agricultural green excited me, and I never understood why. It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I realized how much FAMU meant to me. I received scholarship offers from St. John’s University, South Carolina State University and Savannah College of Art & Design. All of the colleges I applied to accepted me. I went on college tours at many campuses, but something just didn’t feel right. 

But one moment put everything into perspective for me: FAMU’s 2014 Homecoming. I remember seeing the orange and green flags all around the campus, and the energy was just different. We were playing Norfolk State University and I can remember the sweat dripping down my face, but I didn’t care. I was too busy dancing to the Marching 100’s rendition of “Icecream Man.” Nothing else mattered in that moment but the love I felt for FAMU.

Something clicked in my brain, and it all made sense. FAMU is not like any other institution. It’s a home away from home, it’s “FAMUly” when I miss my family, and it’s a breeding ground for some of the most successful black professionals in the world. It was at that homecoming that I made my final decision: I was coming to FAMU. 

My parents met at FAMU, in the School of Business and Industry. My mother was a shy sophomore from Tallahassee who was born at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College Hospital. My father was a junior from Atlanta, who happened to be the head drum major in the Marching 100. The two were in Orator’s Club, where my father was the student teacher. He asked my mother on a date, and the rest was FAMU history. They got married, moved to Atlanta and had two daughters. Though they left Tallahassee, their love for FAMU went with them. 

Monica Williams and Ivan Wilborn in Gaither
Gym parking lot after a 1983 Convocation.
Ila Wilborn | The Famuan

I see the impact that FAMU has had on my parents, as they’re both dedicated members of the National Alumni Association as well as the Boosters under the Investing in Champion program. Since I’ve been a student at FAMU, my parents have never missed a home game.

 I’m following in the footsteps of my parents, older sister, and my mother’s seven siblings by attending FAMU. This university has been such an integral part of my life and it only made sense to continue the tradition that my family left for me. I would have never felt the way I feel about FAMU if it wasn’t for that initial exposure to FAMU’s annual homecoming celebration.