But what I’m most proud of is these six HBCU student interviews I conducted and the longform piece I wrote for the Peloton blog.
HOW HBCU STUDENTS SOURCE THEIR POWER
Highlighting 5 Exceptional Members After One Year With The Peloton App.
Last year, together with Beyoncé, we offered two-year free Peloton App memberships to students from 10 HBCUs across the U.S.: Bennett College, Clark Atlanta University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College, Texas Southern University and Wilberforce University. Thousands took us up on those memberships and have been blowing us away, showing up and crushing it on the Leaderboard.
The HBCU community holds a special place in our hearts at Peloton. These schools—each with their own incredible history of fighting for representation in higher education—and the students who go to them embody strength, courage and determination every day. As we source our power this week through the launch of the Beyoncé Artist Series, let's take a moment to learn how just a small sample of these impressive HBCU students source their power.
Growing up, Nyesa had always been ashamed of her hair. And being one of only a handful of Black students through undergrad, she never felt like she had the space to be herself. “When you go to a PWI [Predominantly White Institution] and there are six Black people, you’re all just Black, and you have to stick together.”
When she decided to go to Howard to pursue her doctorate, everything changed. Nyesa saw how her peers supported one another instead of always viewing school as a winner-take-all competition. And she saw the incredible diversity among Black students. Finding her place among a community of Black students helped her build her confidence again—hair and all.
Nyesa says she sources her power from her grandmothers. “My grandparents didn’t have the same opportunities as I do, but they pushed education as a really important thing.” Through their struggles, her grandmothers were both examples of what it’s like to be true to yourself and have unwavering confidence. “My family is very physical. One of my grandmothers used to ride a motorcycle, and even though she’s in and out of a wheelchair now, she’ll get up and dance any time music is on.”
When the offer to join Peloton came to her inbox, she figured she’d give it a try. Nyesa had been a track athlete since fifth grade, but without a reason to get up early to work out, she had lost the motivation. She’d tried a lot of different ways to stay active, but nothing had stuck until Peloton. “This [past year] has been my most consistent exercise streak in six years. I love the diversity of classes. I can always find a class to fit whatever time I have in my day, even if it’s just five minutes.”
Nyesa will be the first in her family to get her Ph.D. But for all that she’s accomplished, she still remains humble—or in her words, “I’m just your average, weird Black girl.”
Dakota C. was going to be a star lacrosse player. In fact, she had offers to play for just about every top-tier college you could imagine. But one day near the end of high school, everything changed. Before her game, to fire up the team, her coach asked each girl why she wanted to play. When it was Dakota’s turn, she couldn’t find another answer besides that she was good at it. So she put aside her school offers and started researching HBCUs. “I wanted to be surrounded by the Black women who are shaping our world.” Having been at an all-girls school until college, Spelman was a great fit where she could be comfortable and challenged.
“I was surprised by how diverse [Spelman] was. HBCUs get poor marks for diversity criteria, but when it’s all Black women, you find so many different groups. People are the product of their experiences and background, so everyone ends up different. In the media, Black women are a monolith.”
While she no longer plays lacrosse, Dakota still derives some of her power from competition. “Even if it’s just a ping-pong game, one-on-one competition is so exhilarating.”
She fell in love with the app the first time she did a Beyoncé Artist Series class—Ally Love that is. Now she uses the app every day. “I wake up at 6:45 every morning and do a core class, then a Tread class, then Pilates...it’s how I get back to that space where I’m doing something just for me.” And she’ll need me-time after she graduates. Dakota plans to dedicate her career to helping others, beginning with an internship at a firm that specializes in DEI training over the summer. “My passion is helping create equitable outcomes.”
Kimberlee-Mykel has always been a tireless overachiever—a dancer and top student. But when she was 16, it all caught up with her, and her endless energy ran out. “After a freak accident, I was unable to walk for a month. Nobody knew what was wrong, but pretty much I just wouldn’t stop long enough to heal.” That month of introspection led her to study at an HBCU, where she could remove herself from the stigmas of being Black and focus more of her energy on what was important to her. “I like the quote, ‘the grass is greener where you water it.’”
Today, still an avid dancer and now student body president, Kimberlee-Mykel loves surrounding herself with the exceptionally talented students at Hampton. “Everyone is doing something incredible. The people here are doing their best, and it inspires everyone to do the best they can.”
Along with the matriarchs in her family—like her mom, whom she considers one of her best friends—she also derives her power from the energy she gets from performing on stage. “It’s my favorite place, being on stage, entertaining and feeling the support from people.”
The timing of Beyoncé’s gift of free two-year app memberships was ideal for Kimberlee-Mykel. With gyms closed and her dance classes canceled during the pandemic, working out from home seemed perfect. “I’m a huge Beyoncé fan too, so when she offered the membership, I was excited to join. It’s always something to look forward to.” She loves how her favorite Peloton instructors Adrian and Robin are always so enthusiastic.
Kimberlee-Mykel keeps pushing herself, watering the grass where she wants it to grow while still making time for herself. Kimberlee-Mykel will graduate in May. She already has a job lined up for her in Boston.
Growing up as a so-called “talented Black boy,” Cameron felt like he had to be the spokesperson for all Black people. “When you combine social unrest with the expectations for youth to be socially aware, emotionally aware and a contributing member of society, all while being the perfect student, I knew I had to shape my collegiate experience carefully.” He chose Morehouse College in Atlanta, because he knew it would give him a space where he could be pushed by the impressive students around him, while also feeling safe to explore everything it means to be Black.
Cameron is an avid meditator, although he may not talk about it in those terms. Along with the influence of his family, he draws his power from being able to clear his mind. “I’m constantly checking in with myself asking, ‘What am I in control of?’ Whenever I need to recharge, I imagine myself standing alone in an empty white room. My happy place is a place without distractions. I try to get into that space whenever I can.”
Peloton has been a place where Cameron can work on what he needs both mentally and physically too. “Peloton gives me the drive that was missing from my gym days. The Leaderboard and seeing others stats during class gives me purpose to keep working. The Peloton instructors also do a great job of pulling you in and making you feel like you really are working out in the room with them.”
Cameron plans to continue studying and has been accepted to a Ph.D. program where, inspired by his experience at Morehouse, he’ll study the relationship between college students’ sense of identity and their academic success.
Toni prides herself on embracing anything life brings. So far, she’s gone from college student, to getting kicked out, to enrolling at hair school in NYC, to working at a prestigious salon. And then life switched on her again. Toni found herself back on a college campus. But this time, things were going well. Really well. In fact, after graduating, she was accepted to an Ivy League school for her master’s degree. When she decided to keep studying for her doctorate, she chose an HBCU because she loved feeling like the school viewed her success as an investment. “After attending both a PWI and an Ivy League school, I wanted to focus on education that would provide a curriculum that was tailored and focused on Black history and progression.”
Through every twist and turn, Toni has sourced her power from the things that stayed constant—her faith and her family. “During COVID, everyone was inside, so all of a sudden, outside power was gone. But faith and family are consistent.”
“I heard about Peloton through some friends who were Members. When the offer came to join, I was so excited to finally be in the club. I love that there’s an instructor for every mood. Whenever I need to go beyond, it’s Alex. If I need some loving, I go to Jess. And Kirsten is a mom like me, so it’s great running with her.”
Today, nearly finished with her doctorate at Clark Atlanta University, Toni marvels at the path that brought her to now. “I thought I was going to be traveling the world doing hair, and now I’ve got a husband and a son, working as an educator.” She credits her flexibility for her successes. “I see setbacks as a way forward. I love a fresh start. I love crunch time—to be in the thick of it. Even with Peloton—I’ve cried on that Bike thinking, ‘What am I doing?!’ but there’s a rush of newness when you stick it out. Nothing scares me anymore.”
This year, to show our continued support and appreciation, Beyoncé and Peloton have gifted Bikes to our 10 partner HBCUs.
Students everywhere can source their power and join us in the Beyoncé Artist Series classes on the Peloton App, free for 30 days, then just $6.99 monthly* for active undergrad and graduate students.
We look forward to seeing what the future holds for all of our HBCU Members, and to seeing them all on the Leaderboard.
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