2020 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars Announced

Washington The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Initiative) announced today the names of 44 students from 33 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) 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, 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.

I am simply thrilled to recognize the 2020 HBCU Competitiveness Scholars, said Johnathan Holifield, Executive Director of the Initiative. These students are fine examples of the talent and boundless vitality found at Americas HBCUs. This recognition heightens expectations for scholars to continue making meaningful contributions to our nation. I am confident they will deliver.

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 Competitiveness Scholars Program is a great way to showcase and recognize HBCU students for their academic, civic and entrepreneurial prowess,said President James E. Clark, South Carolina State University. 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.

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. 

These scholars are already extraordinary, said Elyse Jones, Scholar Program Coordinator. With the drastic changes that have been made to their learning environments, they still manage to distinguished themselves in their leadership and service, continue to foster their student voices, and furthermore embody what it means to have a competitiveness spirit. Their ability to stay so diligent in their studies and invested in their personal growth during a time of uncertainty speaks volumes to the character of these students.

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. 

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, said N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. 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. 

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.

For more information on this recognition you can visit our Competitiveness Scholars Programwebpage. 

NOTE: Below is a list of the 2020 Competitiveness Scholars, 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

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