FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fayetteville State University was founded during Reconstruction in 1867 to educate African Americans. Years later, it became a teachers college and was one of the first teacher-training schools for Blacks in the South. That legacy lives on today through alumni and current students such as Shawn McNeill.
McNeil spends many days at E.E. Smith High School with students in the wind ensemble class. While he is teaching, the students aren't the only ones learning in the classroom.
"I'm actually doing my student teaching clinical education experience at none other than E. E. Smith High School," he said.
McNeil is a senior majoring in music education at Fayetteville State. He's on track to become part of a long legacy of educators.
I just remember our professors really caring about us by answering our questions and challenging us but nurturing us as well.Erica Fenner-McAdoo, Howard Hall Elementary School principal
Nicholle Young works in the Historically Black College and University's archives. She showed ABC11 pieces of the university's history through documents such as a letter from a former student in the 1940s.
"This belonged to Henry Wordsworth Ferguson. He's a World War II veteran and in it, he's talking about his time as a military soldier for the Army," she said. "He's like, 'now I'm back at Fayetteville State Teacher's College. The war was an interlude. I am determined to become a teacher. It's the kind of life I want."
Documents shown to ABC11 reveal a two-floor schoolhouse that was known as the Howard School. It was one of FSU's first locations.
"The downstairs area was a primary school. That's where you'd get general education for reading and music, but upstairs is where students were being trained to become teachers," said Young.
The HBCU has had many name changes, but on July 1, 1969, it became Fayetteville State University.
Bronco pride runs deep.
According to the dean of the College of Education, the education program is the only college on campus to offer a doctoral degree.
"It's given me the perspective of both a teacher and administrator. So, I understand what the teachers are going through," said Douglas Byrd High School principal and FSU alum Kenneth Williams.
Williams is a proud graduate of the university's education program. So is Howard Hall Elementary School Principal Erica Fenner-McAdoo, who is also the Cumberland County Schools 2024 Principal of the Year.
"I just remember our professors really caring about us by answering our questions and challenging us but nurturing us as well," she said.
It's success stories like those that help the university maintain its rich legacy of producing educators. The university proudly markets itself as the largest HBCU producer of teachers in North Carolina.
The rich legacy also inspires current students who are hungry for success.
"Hopefully one day I will return back home to Fayetteville State University and serve in that music department and change the world," said McNeill.