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Stillman seniors named to prestigious White House Initiative

Over the course of an academic school year, HBCU Scholars will serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

Stillman College seniors Ta'kari Bryant (left) and Jaela Williams have been named to the White House HBCU Scholars Initiative 2023-24 cohort. Stillman College
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Two Stillman College seniors have been named to the 2023 cohort of the White House HBCU Scholars Initiative.

Ta’Kari Bryant, a senior psychology major and graduate of Dothan High, and Jaela Williams, a senior criminal justice major and graduate of New Century Technology High School in Huntsville, are two of just 101 students from HBCUs across the country named to this year’s cohort. Their selections mark the third consecutive year that at least two Stillman students were chosen as White House HBCU Scholars.

Over the course of an academic 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 a wide range of disciplines.

“I had to re-read the email twice,” Bryant said. “I was shocked but super excited. I immediately called my mom to tell her the news.”

Both Bryant and Williams have existing summer connections to Washington, D.C.; Bryant is fulfilling a communications internship with the Appalachian Regional Commission, while Williams, a 2022-23 Congressional Black Caucus scholar, visited D.C. for a CBC luncheon and networking event last month.

The pair are eager to build more relationships in D.C. through the HBCU Scholars Initiative.

“I’m excited to get there and to network,” Williams said. “Even if I don’t meet the president, just being there and being a part of this program is a step in the right direction. I want to meet the next doctors, politicians – the other students in the cohort.”

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Both women are scheduled to graduate in Spring 2024, and each plan to attend graduate school; Bryant plans to pursue a master’s degree in clinical counseling, while Williams plans to attend law school. Additionally, each are involved in various programs or agencies that have helped prepare them for their respective graduate programs; Bryant has served in Stillman’s Student Government Association and as co-founder of campus advocacy group, The Pulse. She also works with the Sickle Cell Association of West Alabama.

Williams recently helped Stillman to its first-ever Honda Campus All-Star Challenge national championship and is also a co-founder of The Pulse on campus. In the summer of 2022, Williams was one of three students to participate in the Southern Illinois University School of Law Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute. In November, she and other students in Stillman’s pre-law program completed a professional development program at Proskauer Rose law firm in New York. Williams hopes to work in constitutional or environmental law. 

Both Williams and Bryant are eager to leverage the HBCU White House Scholars Initiative for similar experiences and insights for the next levels of their education.

Bryant said it’s critically important for members of the cohort to “see themselves” in these types of professional spaces and to “maximize the opportunities provided through the initiative,” especially as ambassadors for their respective institutions.

“I want to make more connections with the people who work in and put their focus in bettering HBCUs,” Bryant said. “I want people to know where Stillman is, know who Stillman is, and understand the transformation it’s making so we can receive more assistance and resources – in addition to what we’re getting.”

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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