SHERMAN, Texas (KTEN) — An HBCU [Historically Black College or University] is more than an educational institution for African American students.

As history centers around the forefront of HBCU institutions, it stems back to the Reconstruction Era in the Civil War, when enslaved people were allowed to integrate into a non-slave society.

More specifically, HBCUs — like Prairie View A&M University — have historical significance beyond a college campus.

"A lot of lives were taken; a lot of people were tortured; a lot of people were beaten.  But the good that did come from it, It built a university on top of a plantation and turned bad to good," said former Denison High School student Gabrielle Brown.

According to Business Education and HBCUs, African American HBCU degrees produce more than 50 percent of the nation's Black teachers, and 70 percent of doctors and dentists.

Those figures inspire former Denison and Sherman High School students to achieve academic success at PVAMU.

"Because there's not a lot of Black dentists, and I've never had a Black dentist before, so I just thought I could —you know, be a representation for other young Black girls and let them know this is something that you could do,"  said Melijah Bowman, another Denison High graduate.

"I wanted to be learning; I wanted to learn from professors who looked like me; I wanted to be sitting next to somebody who talks like me," said Sherman High grad Jynasia Banks. "Less pressure... I feel like I can thrive there.",

But how can you achieve success coming from a small city? Gabrielle Brown said it's how you choose to be a productive person.

"Receiving negativity and turning it into something even greater," she said. "Put yourself first, because at the end of the day, you create success on your own."

The Texoma natives received the Dean's Honor Award at Prairie View's convocation, with GPAs ranging between 3.5 and 4.0.