College was the furthest thing from his mind. He didn't want to go. He liked what he was doing in his hometown of Atlanta — cutting hair and hanging out with friends.

But Mom wanted more, and she was not fond of his friends either. She pushed him to get out of “a bad environment.”

So Obadiah Njoku, who had good grades but only “did enough to get by,” chose South Carolina State, mainly to please his mother and stay close to home.

Now 19 and a rising junior, “OB” is on a full scholarship and has big ideas about his future. He still likes cutting hair, but now, with a potential degree in economics, he envisions himself as an empire-building businessman with a chain of barbershops across the country.

And he wants to build Y's and give back to the community, particularly to young black people like himself.

S.C. State, as a historically black university, helped provide that outlook for him and other students, even though he did not select it for that reason, he said. He is happy his mom pushed him.

OB and many others on campus love their school and believe there is still a need for historically black colleges.

I agree.“They teach about our history — educate people on where we came from.” Predominantly white schools are not going to do that, he said.

Energetic president

S.C. State, like many black colleges, has educated thousands over the past 116 years who may not have gotten an education because of their race and financial inability.

State and others like it have filled a void, and for that reason, the school, the board and the Legislature should do all it can to get it back on track, educating the underserved.

Students like OB and others deserve a chance to graduate from a school that places more attention on them than on a longstanding controversy that continues to invite press coverage.

The school is plagued by declining enrollment, financial shortfalls and a management team in disarray. It also is in the midst of an unspecified criminal investigation.

OB said the school gets a lot of “negative press,” and he doesn't like it. He said school officials need to do better for the students; and students themselves need to speak out more.

“It's not affecting me,” OB said of the controversy, but he thinks the school needs to quickly find a new president, an alumnus who knows the school's tradition. The person should be young, energetic and more involved with students, he said.

Student institute

S.C. State has a strong alumni chapter, and it should call for a quick resolution to problems and get the school solvent again. It will take more than rhetoric, more than digging in and trying to be right. Everyone must come together, take serious action and do what is right for the school and its students.

On campus, OB is trying to promote a more positive image by pulling students together. He and others have started The S.C. State Institute, students who meet Wednesdays wearing professional attire to talk about how to function in the corporate world.

Students are taught about the right socks and tie and suit to wear. OB wore a suit for the first time on campus. He hopes this will reduce the negative press.

Anderson Hall, 19, Campus Activity Board chairman and a rising junior from Washington, D.C., hopes so too.

S.C. State has a “positive, friendly environment where everyone's welcome.” It has a strong alumni base, and “when you graduate from State ... people will help you.”

Hall, whose grandmother also attended S.C. State, is majoring in computer science. With all the controversy, he and others have concerns about tuition and scholarships, but he remains positive.

“Everyone has problems.” Whatever negative thing you say about State, “just end on a positive note.

“I love it here.”