Sidney Smith became a HBCU All-Star in 2015 while he was an undergraduate computer science major at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Now pursuing a graduate degree in computer science from his alma mater, he is thankful for the experience he gained through the program and is looking to recruit more classmates to apply.
The HBCU All-Star program can be traced back to an executive order signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, which established a federal program “… to overcome the effects of discriminatory treatment and to strengthen and expand the capacity of historically black colleges and universities to provide quality education.” This order ultimately led to the launch of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2014 by President Obama.
Representing 62 institutions, HBCU All-Stars have been serving as ambassadors of the White House Initiative by providing outreach and communication with their fellow students about the value of education and the Initiative as a networking resource. Kicking off National HBCU Week, All-Stars are flown to Washington, D.C. and sworn into their positions as Ambassadors to the White House for their respective HBCU. During this conference, they are able to network amongst each other, with their liaisons and prominent individuals and stakeholders serving federal roles, private sector companies, philanthropic organizations, those involved with HBCUs, as well as celebrities. Discussion often centers around plans to improve instruction, degree completion and better understanding of federal policies that shape and support higher education.
“Without UAPB I would not have cultivated into the individual who received this position,” Smith said. “I enrolled at the university seeking food, money, field trips, and an aspiration to graduate with honors. My plan of action in order to achieve these goals were to join clubs and organizations. By following my heart, I was led to various opportunities to serve and volunteer which in turn provided valuable experience that helped me grow, develop, and mature into the person I am today.”
Smith said he believes that pain is felt in order to motivate action that creates the change. In being an ambassador for the program, he is linked with resources needed as well the communities in need.
“Anyone with vision for a better tomorrow should take steps in manifesting their ideal,” Smith said.
Having already confirmed his VIP reservation for the 2016 HBCU Week Conference, Smith said he cannot wait to address the priorities stated in Presidential Executive Order 13532– Promoting Excellence, Innovation, And Sustainability at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The highlight of the event for him will be the induction of the incoming group of All-Stars and being able to hear from influential speakers. During last year’s conference, Smith was able to attend lectures by Vice President Joe Biden, then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and actors Laz Alonso and Lamman Rucker.
“The most valuable lesson I came away with from this experience is that if we, attendees of HBCUs and members of the communities in which they serve, are to obtain anything that betters ourselves, we must work towards it ourselves, and we are able to go much further by working together,” Smith said. “This initiative connects the leaders of the student bodies of these elite organizations with individuals with resources in our communities as well as in the land of policy making and governance. I firmly believe that those in positions of legislative power combined with those who are in the trenches of the experience and those with the energy to implement are essential in creating the better tomorrow we all envision. If you have an idea to impact your HBCU and local/national community, or if that idea has evolved into a passionate desire, I strongly recommend applying for this position.”
Information on the application process can be found at http://sites.ed.gov/whhbcu/resources/hbcu-all-star-students/.