Three distinguished Claflin University scholars are among 44 students who were named 2020 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Travis Armstead, a junior political science major from Chicago, Ill.; Jayda Teasley, a junior political science major from Gainesville, Fla.; and Ronitra Wilson, a junior political science and mass communications major from Columbia, S.C., were this year’s recipients of the program’s highest student recognition.
“It is my privilege to congratulate the HBCU Competitiveness Scholars Class of 2020 on their outstanding academic achievement, community leadership, and entrepreneurial spirit,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “These exemplary students have excelled inside the classroom and out, and have successfully met the unprecedented challenges to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their determination, resilience, and commitment to excellence will serve them well as they continue their academic careers and prepare for future continued success.”
This year’s scholars represent 33 HBCUs. They were chosen based on their academic achievements, campus and civic involvement, and entrepreneurial ethos or “go-getter” spirit. Comprised of undergraduate, graduate, professional students, and international students from various academic backgrounds, the 2020 scholars were picked from among several highly distinguished HBCU students. In addition, each scholar was nominated and endorsed by the president of their university.
“I congratulate our three HBCU Competitive Scholars who have demonstrated their exceptional academic abilities in the classroom and their empathy and concern for others by participating in activities that engage and enrich the campus community, said Claflin President Dwaun J. Warmack. “They represent Claflin’s next generation of bold and diverse visionary leaders. We are immensely proud of their collective and individual achievements which align with the University’s commitment to student success.”
Johnathan Holifield, executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, added, “I am simply thrilled to recognize the 2020 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars. These students are fine examples of the talent and boundless vitality found at America’s HBCUs. This recognition heightens expectations for scholars to continue making meaningful contributions to our nation. I am confident they will deliver.”
The students will serve for one academic school year representing the 2020-2021 cohort of Competitiveness Scholars. During this unique academic school year, the initiative will work closely with the program’s federal and non-federal partners to develop a robust calendar of virtual events that will explore and exchange ideas, and share best practices around leadership, professional development, career pathways, government resources, and much more.
Competitiveness Scholars typically assemble during the annual National HBCU Week Conference. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scholars will not be able to convene in Washington, D.C., for the National Recognition Program in the fall. Instead, plans are underway for an online recognition and virtual campaign to ensure the scholars receive their acknowledgement during the 2020 Virtual HBCU Week Conference. During this virtual event, they will participate in workshops designed to strengthen their leadership and personal and professional development in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship.