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America, as we know it today, would cease to exist without the contributions of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). For decades these institutions have been the backbone of Black culture and Black advancement, and now it seems that they are finally getting the recognition that they deserve.

In late September, The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs, convened for its annual national conference in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 20-23 to celebrate these institutions and provide them with the keys to thrive.

The experience included multiple days of events dedicated to HBCUs and provided opportunities to a plethora of HBCU students to come to D.C. as a part of its White House Scholars program.

In an exclusive with NewsOne, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona spoke about the importance of celebrating HBCUs and empowering these historic institutions that are still relevant today.

“HBCUs punch above their weight, they are producing higher percentages of Black excellence than any other university system. We need to lift them up for what they are doing, and we need to support them. Not just by words but by actions,” said Cardona. “We’ve provided $6 billion in funds in one year, that’s more than any other administration total. But we are also giving them opportunities to be engaged in programming with different departments, and make sure they are eligible for contracts also. We want to support their infrastructure. We want to lift up the sense of community and family that they are.”

Miykael Stith, a senior and mass communications student at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, went to D.C. as a White House Scholar and got an inside look at the festivities happening in the nation’s Capital that week.

Stith said the experience helped him grow and realize that he has the power to obtain opportunities that he never knew were possible.

2022 White House HBCU Scholars

Front, from left: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Second gentleman Doug Emhoff and White House Office of Public Engagement Director Keisha Lance Bottoms join the 2022 White House HBCU Scholars. | Source: The White House

“This experience took my ideas and multiplied them by 10. I realized that there are opportunities that are right in front of me that can get me to my dreams,” said Stith in a NewsOne exclusive. “I had the chance to learn from other people and apply these lessons so I can grow as a scholar and as a person. This experience helped me affirm my belief that I belong in any room I step foot in.”

Stith continued: “I had a limited mindset when it came to NASA and the IRS. I wasn’t sure how my major would play a role in those companies, but I learned that the roles go way beyond science and taxes. I was able to learn about how mass communications can push each company to reach new audiences, and I was exposed to opportunities for creative marketing. I was able to network and bring back opportunities for jobs and internships for my student body. My name was floating around in rooms I never imagined it would be in.”

Stith, like so many other HBCU students across the country, is full of hope, talent and potential. HBCUs have nurtured these students and propelled them to new heights since their inception in the 1800s.

These institutions need and deserve continued support from these major government and corporate entities such as the White House. HBCUs and the students they serve have been under the radar for far too long and it’s time for them to reap the benefits of newfound exposure, resources and opportunities.

“The White House Initiative allows students to blossom and take off to reach new levels of success,” said Stith. “There are 107 HBCUs across the nation and 50 of them had the chance to shine and let the whole country know that we’re here, we’re strong, and we’re educated.”


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