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The Retool Your School Program And HBCUs

The Home Depot has given over $12 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the past 15 years through its Retool Your School program. The program, which began with a simple mission of giving back to HBCUs in the communities that the company serves, awards campus improvement grants based on online voting from students, alumni, and other HBCU constituents.

These types of grants are incredibly important to HBCUs as they have significant deferred maintenance projects on their campus. According to a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), HBCUs report that 46% of their campus buildings need to be repaired or replaced. Moreover, based on campus visits, the GAO identified “significant capital project needs in the areas of deferred maintenance, facilities modernization, and preservation of historic buildings.”

According to Chanté LaGon, Senior Manager of Multicultural Marketing at The Home Depot, “In thinking about how we could best do that as a company, it was clear we had the skills and scale to help update physical campus spaces at HBCUs in a meaningful way. And in doing so, we could help create a more positive experience for students using those spaces to further their studies and their careers.” She added, “These educational and cultural institutions give so much to students and their communities – a strong foundation, shared purpose, and distinctive character – and we wanted to do our part to help continue advancing the role that HBCUs play in our higher education system.”

One of the most exciting parts of the Retool Your School programs is watching the HBCU alumni get involved. The program drives engagement and brings signifiant attention to HBCUs — including those that often don’t get as much. This year 7 million people voted for their favorite HBCU. LaGon, who works closely with the program, shared, “HBCU alumni are so dedicated – they are out there, even decades after graduation, still repping their schools and making sure their alma mater gets the recognition and support they deserve. It just goes to show the lasting impact of the HBCU experience and how tight-knit the HBCU community is. In my opinion, that level of alumni involvement isn’t just about nostalgia; it’s about a genuine love and commitment to seeing these institutions thrive. And programs like Retool Your School are a way for alumni to give back and keep that HBCU spirit alive and kicking!”

HBCUs are excited and appreciative of the program, not only for the financial support but also for the interest it generates in their individual institutions and HBCUs overall. They are also excited about all the changes that result from the program, especially around student success. According to De’Shawn Barnes, Director of Alumni Affairs at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, the program “has had a lasting impact on our institution by helping make several campus improvements for students to enjoy a comfortable environment that brings them together to cultivate success.” He added, [It] has “allowed Lane College to foster social and academic activity with our scholars and has helped the institution in the assistance of addressing student needs to leverage their importance to campus life. It has also provided high impact training and innovative techniques to drive academic excellence across the campus and has been able to establish spaces where students can come together to ideate on career paths, and/or entrepreneurship, collaborate on schoolwork or conduct hybrid meetings and webinars.”

Tuskegee University, in Tuskegee, Alabama, has used the grants from The Home Depot for renovating classrooms and laboratories. The institution has also “increased the recreational and social facilities that support student life,” according to Kymberly Holland, Coordinator of Alumni Affairs at the HBCU. For example, the campus tennis courts were refurbished, a social hub was created, and seating was added around campus.

Ariel Triplett, Interim Director of Environmental Health and Safety at Howard University shared that through the Retool Your School program “we had the opportunity from the very first win to turn one of our on campus shuttle bus stops into a solar shuttle shelter with heating in the winter and new seating. From there the university has used [the] funding to brighten green spaces, produce innovative and sustainable thinking space, and projects that promote sustainability and climate justice.” She added, “Retool Your School grants have created lasting impressions for Black and Brown students to imagine a world that can be sustainable, creative, and designed with them in mind.”

Since its inception, the Retool Your School program has awarded over 270 grants to nearly 75% of the nation’s HBCUs. It has also engaged 75 million HBCU constituents in the voting process, raising the profile of 82 of the 105 HBCUs across the country. This year’s program incorporates an internship and scholarship component as well as the campus improvement grants.

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