(from left) Khya Nelson and Makira Burns
Two Florida A&M University (FAMU) students who plan public service careers are among the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities ninth cohort of 2022 HBCU Scholars.
Makira Burns of Orlando and Khya Nelson of Tallahassee are among 86 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students recognized for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement, and other areas.
Burns, a senior political science student, is FAMU Student Government Association (SGA) vice president. In 2021, she founded a nonprofit, Igniting Scholars, which offers services such as resume building, interview preparation, career readiness planning, personalized scholarships lists, and personal statements to students. An intern at the U.S. Embassy in London this summer, Burns had previous internships with the Florida House Representatives and the U.S. State Department as part of a two-year program. She was also a Florida Gubernatorial fellow.
As a White House HBCU scholar, Burns hopes to network and hone her leadership skills and work on issues affecting FAMU and other HBCUs. She and SGA President Zachery Bell are working on a document to submit concerns affecting FAMU to the U.S. Department of Education.
“It gives us the opportunity to bring up issues our University faces,” Burns said. “It’s about bettering our University and HBCUs in general.”
Burns, who plans to attend law school after graduation, said her goal is to work as a lawyer and eventually become a judge. “I have a passion for family law,” she said.
Meanwhile, senior agribusiness student Nelson said being selected as an HBCU scholar will set the stage for her long-term career endeavors.
“This recognition by the White House and the Department of Education will open opportunities in the future for me as I continue to excel inside and outside the classroom,” said Nelson, a third-generation Rattler. After graduating in December, she plans to attend law school. She aspires to work on Capitol Hill. That career decision was cemented for Nelson after her internship in the Congressional Office of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia.
“That was an experience of a lifetime,” she said. “I got to watch the first Black female get nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.”
Enrolled at 56 of the nation’s HBCUs, the 86 scholars were selected from a pool of more than 350 students. Applications required the signature of their HBCU president or designated HBCU faculty, adding a level of prestige to this application process.
“The HBCU Scholars announced have dedicated themselves to their learning and exemplify the talent that our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have nurtured for generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to supporting these leaders, and I cannot wait to learn from them while they serve as ambassadors for the White House Initiative and their institutions.”
During the school year, HBCU Scholars will serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. They will be offered training and cross-university networking opportunities. Scholars will also have an opportunity to work on issues specifically related to the HBCU community and participate in national and regional events with professionals from various disciplines.
“As an HBCU graduate, I’m honored to announce our HBCU Scholars, our future leaders of tomorrow. At HBCUs, we are a family, we build each other up and we’re taught that we can do and be anything,” said Dietra Trent, executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through HBCU’s. “I look forward to supporting the growth of our HBCU family through the Scholar Recognition Program.”
A key feature of the HBCU Scholar Program is a partnership with NASA to foster innovation and opportunity for the cohorts. This partnership with NASA makes the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovation Tech Transfer Idea Competition (MITTIC), “Mini MITTIC” part of the HBCU Scholar Program. Through the Mini MITTIC program students will partner in developing ideas to commercialize technology derived from NASA intellectual property. Scholars will have the opportunity to present their IP ideas during the National HBCU Week Conference in September.
HBCU Scholars will also be invited to the 2022 HBCU Week National Annual Conference, on September 20-23 in Washington, D.C. During the conference, they will participate in sessions designed to engage a spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, and personal and professional development. Most importantly, scholars will have opportunities to engage with one another and showcase their individual and collective talent.
Program events are designed to enhance HBCU Scholars professional development and create post-graduation opportunities within nonprofit, business, and federal agency partners to ensure that as a nation we remain globally competitive.