The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) has named two Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) students 2015 “HBCU All-Stars.”
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced the names of 83 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from 70 HBCUs who have been tapped to serve as ambassadors to the White House by providing outreach and communication with fellow students about the value of education.
FAMU graduate students Gilda Brown and Jennifer Smith were selected as All-Stars from a pool of more than 450 applicants.
According to the initiative’s executive director, Ivory A. Toldson, this year’s class of All-Stars will serve as representatives of the talent that HBCUs cultivate and will help the White House “meaningfully engage with students, showcase their talent, and advance our agenda to advance academic excellence at HBCUs.”
FAMU President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., recognized Brown and Smith before the University community during her recent “State of the University” address.
“Ms. Brown and Ms. Smith are shining examples of the caliber of students that FAMU has been successful in producing over its rich 128-year legacy,” Mangum said. “I look forward to working with this dynamic duo as they spread the message of the value of not only HBCUs but also FAMU, which has played a significant role in closing the higher education gap for African-American and low-wealth student across the nation.”
As ambassadors, Brown and Smith will assist President Barack Obama in achieving his goal of increasing the percentage of African Americans who complete college. Also, the students will have the opportunity to engage with other HBCU scholars to showcase their individual and collective talents across the HBCU community.
They will also be responsible for promoting the initiative’s programs on FAMU’s campus, social media, and at regional and national events.
Brown and Smith are already hard at work, joining President Mangum at the National HBCU Week Conference in Washington, D.C., which kicked off on Sept. 20.
Brown, a second-year pharmacology student in the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences master’s degree program, said she is eager to aid in the White House’s mission to promote higher education in the African-American community.
“That’s the importance of HBCUs,” said Brown, a Tallahassee native, referring to the need for higher-education opportunities for African-Americans. “Before coming to FAMU, I went to a predominantly White institution, and I loved my time there, but at FAMU I have experienced professors that are encouraging me and who look like me. Something as simple as that can make a huge impact.”
According to Smith, an Atlanta native, who is pursuing her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, being selected as an All-Star gives her the opportunity to meet other HBCU scholars and potentially implement joint initiatives that would benefit HBCU students and the African-American community.
“I’m pro-HBCU,” Smith explained. “I love the mission and the purpose of HBCUs. Overall, I want to be a part of something bigger than me, and that is what HBCUs are all about. I wanted to do something that is great for FAMU, and that will bring HBCUs together and help them pool resources and thrive.”
For more information about the White House HBCU All-Star program, visit https://www.ed.gov/edblogs/whhbcu.