HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Vice President Kamala Harris touted the importance of Historic Black Colleges and Universities in a visit Friday to Hampton University.

Harris made the trip to mark 2021 National HBCU Week, which since 1980 has paid tribute to HBCUs’ legacy of promoting equal opportunities for high-quality education.

As the first vice president to graduate from an HBCU, longtime school president Dr. William Harvey said it made Harris’ visit all the more special.

Harvey said when he first took over the helm of Hampton University back in 1978, he never could have dreamed an HBCU graduate would be in The White House.

“No I did not,” Harvey said. “I think she is an excellent role model. I would like to thank the White House for its acknowledgment of the importance of HBCU students and graduates to the American workforce.” 

Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk), along with Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck greeted the vice president on the tarmac of the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) before traveling to Hampton.

The vice president arrived at the university Friday morning to a huge crowd of students gathered to greet the motorcade as it entered the campus.

The visit was primarily aimed at highlighting HBCUs and minorities’ contributions to STEM fields.

She toured the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at Hampton University, where she was presented with a conversation on atmospheric changes and a connection to climate change.

Hampton University is the first and only HBCU to have 100% control of a NASA mission and currently has four satellites in orbit, according to the university.

Next, she held a roundtable with students studying in STEM fields where she discussed critical efforts to increase the number of HBCU graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

“HBCUs are not only competing but they’re leading,” the vice president said. “If we are to invest in the strength of our nation we must invest in our HBCUs.”

The Biden-Harris administration has proposed approximately $239 million in new institutional aid funding for HBCUs in the Department of Education budget for next year, including $72 million in new discretionary funding for HBCUs.

“And Hampton University is one of the leaders, I say as a Howard graduate,” Harris laughed. Harris graduated from Howard University in 1986. Howard is considered one of Hampton’s rival schools.

The visit was surreal for the students in the roundtable.

Jonathan Nash, 20, said he couldn’t believe it when Harvey selected him to meet Harris earlier in the week.

“She’s amazing,” Nash said. “Once she sat down and started looking at us, really talking to us, it kind of felt like just a regular conversation with someone I’ve known for years.”

Nash is hoping to graduate with the skills to help improve the environment, especially in the world’s waterways.

Harris suggested a book he should read.

“She recommended ‘Six Extinctions’ I believe, I’ll definitely read up on that,” he said.