2020 White House Initiative On Historically Black Colleges And Universities Competitiveness Scholars Announced

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Initiative) announced the 44 students from 33 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) selected as 2020 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars – the Initiative’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. 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.”-Secretary Betsy DeVos, U.S. Department of Education 

“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.” -Johnathan Holifield, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities 

“The Competitiveness Scholars Program is a great way to showcase and recognize HBCU students for their academic, civic and entrepreneurial prowess. Our students are the leaders of the future and this program is one of the many ways we celebrate our student leaders and introduce them to society. I could not be any prouder than I am now of the HBCU 2020 cohort of scholars especially those from SC State.”-James E. Clark, President, South Carolina State University.  

North Carolina A&T is delighted to participate in the HBCU Competitiveness Scholars Program and very proud of our student, who is among those selected for this prestigious honor. The outstanding academic work and commitment to high achievement are illustrative of the kind of students this program is attracting. I congratulate our scholar, Oluchi Ochukwanyere, and her very impressive peers for their recognition, and look forward to the exciting work I know all of them will do over the coming year in exhibiting and championing HBCU excellence across the country.” -Harold L. Martin Sr., Chancellor, N.C. A&T


  • Scholars are chosen based on their academic achievements, campus and civic involvement and entrepreneurial ethos or “go-getter” spirits. Comprised of undergraduate, graduate, professional students, and international students from various academic backgrounds, the 2020 scholars were selected from among several highly distinguished HBCU students. In addition, each recognized scholar was nominated and endorsed by their institution president, which itself is a prestigious acknowledgement.
  • The Initiative remains committed to extending their platform to provide meaningful experiences for HBCU students. Both the Initiative and the U.S. Department of Education fully support this 2020 recognition of competitiveness scholars and believe it to be a critical effort to better support and motivate HBCU students during the pandemic.
  • Selected 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 our federal and non-federal partners to develop a robust calendar of virtual events for our scholars that will explore, 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. 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 2020 Virtual HBCU Week Conference. During this virtual eventthey will participate in workshops designed to strengthen their leadership and will be encouraged to seek out ongoing personal and professional development in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship.


(In alphabetical order by hometown state, the school they attend and the school’s location)


  • Pine Bluff-Sadagicous Owens, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, Arkansas


  • Peoria- Stacy Porche, Southern University Law School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Phoenix-Sarah Adewumi, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, Maryland


  • Toronto- Remeya Ganesh, Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Mississippi


  • Windsor-Tanysha Young, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania


  • Bear- Corban Weatherspoon, Delaware State University, Dover, Delaware 


  • Washington-Taria Taylor, University of District of Columbia Community College, Washington, District of Columbia


  • London- Chyna Sawyers, Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Mississippi


  • Gainesville- Jayda Teasley, Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina
  • Orange Park- Ashanique Moore, Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina


  • Covington- Alexander Lowe, Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Georgia
  • Doerun-Denerick Simpson, Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia
  • Ellenwood- Jailen Edwards, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Villa Rica- Pablo Vallejo, Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama


  • Chicago- Bruce Wilson, Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia
  • Chicago- Justin Lindberg, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Chicago-Travis Armstead, Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina
  • Chicago- William McCorn, Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina


  • Louisville-Christopher Ward, Kentucky State University, Frankfort, Kentucky
  • Owensboro-Brionna Greer, Kentucky State University, Frankfort, Kentucky


  • Winnfield- Stephon Wilson, Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana


  • Bowie-Christopher Clay, Bowie State University, Bowie, Maryland
  • District Heights- Makala Brent, Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Laurel- Alleyah Caesar, Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Temple Hills- Darious Lawson, Bowie State University, Bowie, Maryland


  • Detroit- Karmel Reeves, Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana


  • Saint Louis- Eric Johnson, Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi
  • Saint Louis- Skylr Smith, Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia


  • Jersey City- Kiyana Roberts, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney, Pennsylvania


  • Rochester-Virgil Parker, Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia


  • Lagos-Emmanuella Kyllians, Alcorn State University, Alcorn, Mississippi


  • Battleboro- Zaniya Caine, North Carolina Central University, Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Durham-Malaysia Davis, Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina
  • Greensboro- Desmond Freeman, Bluefield State College, Bluefield, West Virginia
  • Raleigh- Oluchi Chukwanyere, North Carolina Agricultural and Technology University, Greensboro, North Carolina


  • Easton- Kevin Mwangi, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney, Pennsylvania
  • Philadelphia-Jalen Scott-Davis, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania


  • Aiken-Calvin Coach III, Voorhees College, Denmark, South Carolina
  • Columbia-Ronitra Wilson, Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina
  • Orangeburg- Herbert Smith, South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina


  • Murfreesboro- Rhyan Lake, Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia


  • Fort Worth- Toiya Smith, Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Rockwall- Jeffrey Clemmons, Hutson Tillotson University, Austin, Texas
  • San Antonio-Amira Johnson, St. Phillips College, San Antonio, Texas

For more information on this recognition, visit the Competitiveness Scholars Program webpage or email press@ed.gov.

Read President Trump’s historic remarks (first U.S. President to speak at the event) at the 2019 National HBCU Week Conference HERE.

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