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2019 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars Announced

Washington – The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Initiative) announced today the names of 44 students from 34 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) selected as 2019 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars – the Initiative's highest student recognition.

Comprised of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, Competitiveness Scholars are recognized for successfully preparing to compete for top opportunities that improve long-term outcomes. Each was nominated and endorsed by their institution President, which itself is an honorable mention. Johnathan Holifield, executive director of the Initiative, said, “The Initiative’s watchword is competitiveness and these students are fine examples of the depth and diversity of competitive talent at our institutions. We are honored to recognize them.”

Scholars were selected from among several highly distinguished HBCU students chosen based on their academic achievement, campus and civic involvement and entrepreneurial ethos or "go-getter" spirit. In the course of their one-year term, Competitiveness Scholars will learn and share proven and promising practices that support individual and institutional achievement, with the goal of strengthening prospects for career and life success.

“We’re looking forward to working with and learning from this new cohort of HBCU Competitiveness Scholars,” said Elyse Jones, the Initiative’s coordinator for the Scholars Program. “We have lots of unique, fun and interactive opportunities planned for this year that will provide new opportunities for these representatives, exposing them to critical national conversations and powerful thought leaders.”

Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College and a member of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, said, “Over my career, I’ve learned a lot about leadership from HBCU students. Recognition programs such as the Competitiveness Scholars showcase the talent, leadership and spirit of students at Talladega College and across the HBCU landscape. Congratulations to the 2019 cohort – we’re looking for great things from you.”

Rodney Ellis, chancellor of Southern University at Shreveport and a member of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, added, “Academics, civic engagement, entrepreneurship and leadership are achieved through action, not position. Congratulations to the students from the Southern University System and other HBCUs for taking the necessary actions and leveraging their positions as students to achieve impact.”

Competitiveness Scholars will assemble during the 2019 National HBCU Week Conference, Sept. 8-11 at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel – the theme of which is Enhancing HBCU Competitiveness: Student Achievement. Quality Partnerships. Institutional Performance. They will participate in workshops designed to strengthen their leadership, wealth creation and management and civic engagement and will be encouraged to seek out ongoing personal and professional development in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Competitiveness Scholars are recognized for the 2019-2020 academic school year. Throughout this period, the Initiative will facilitate engagement activities, as well as provide information and resources that scholars can take advantage of or disseminate to fellow students. Scholars are encouraged to fully take advantage of the opportunities provided, engage with one another and showcase their individual and collective talents across the HBCU spectrum.

Competitiveness Scholars will receive their recognition at the HBCU week conference during the Initiative's Excellence in Innovation and Competitiveness Awards luncheon ceremony on Sept. 9.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Below is a list of the 2019 WHIHBCU Competitiveness Scholars, in alphabetical order by hometown state, the school they attend and the school's location.


Little Rock- Paola Vasquez, Philander Smith College, Little Rock, Arkansas Little Rock- Kyra Rattler, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, Arkansas Pine Bluff- Angelique Cooper, Wiley College, Marshall, Texas


Miami- Angela Adkins, North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina


Hephzibah- Rodesha Elam, Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Georgia Lithonia- Kia Alicia Smith, Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana Lithonia- Kalyn Black, Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama Macon- Saxton Keitt, Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina Riverdale- Aaliyah Buckholts, Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia Springfield- Denzel Walls, Voorhees College, Denmark, South Carolina


Chicago- Carvell Garrett, Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, Ohio


Alexandria- Morgan Mallory, Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Baton Rouge- Christian King, Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Marrero- Trezell Raga, Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana New Orleans- Alicia Hoey, Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana


Columbia- Diane Ijoma, Howard University, Washington, D.C.


Columbus- Makayela Bouldes, Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi Crystal Springs- Erienne Lewis, Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana Itta Bena- Destiney Sharkey, Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Mississippi Jackson- Adrianna Chambers, Hinds Community College-Utica, Utica, Mississippi Louisville- Haley McHenry, Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi Vicksburg- Jasmine King, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi


Las Vegas- Shayna Espy, Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana Las Vegas- Makhaela French, Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Virginia


Fayetteville-Kiante Bennett, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina Fayetteville- Tenecious Underwood, Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina New Bew- Lyndon Bowen, North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina


Harrisburg- Elisabeth Bellevue, Lincoln University, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania


Charleston- Kenton Kelley, Morris College, Sumter, South Carolina Edgefield- Desmond Rowe, Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina Pinewood-Sky Harvin, Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina


Chattanooga- KaDarius Scott, Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee Memphis- Angelika Gilbert, Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee Memphis- Mariah Rhodes, Tennessee State University, Memphis, Tennessee Nashville- Anyah Gilmore-Jones, Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee


Dallas- Ayanna Brown, Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana DeSoto- Sidney McLaurin, Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina Houston- Nicholas Caldwell, Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Houston- Rachel Gentry, Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana San Antonio- Catherine Cantu, Saints Phillips College, San Antonio, Texas


Dumfries- Tariq Edwards, Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina Virginia Beach- Destiny Hodges, Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia


Benin- Honour Oluwatemlorun Adewumi, Jarvis Christian College, Hawkins, Texas


Milwaukee- Jalicya Lowery, Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama