2019 Competitiveness Scholars

2019 Cohort of Competitiveness Scholars


June 13, 2019

Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

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 with 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.”

“Over my career, I’ve learned a lot about leadership from HBCU students,” said Dr. Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College and a member of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. “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.”

“Academics, civic engagement, entrepreneurship and leadership are achieved through action, not position,” said Dr. Rodney Ellis, chancellor of Southern University at Shreveport and a member of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. “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, September 8-11 at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel – the theme of which is Enhancing HBCU Competitiveness: Student Achievement. Quality Partnerships. Institutional Performance. (I like the periods vs. commas – let me know your thoughts). 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 September 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, St. Phillip’s 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