Hampton University Biochemistry Student Sierra Williams-McLeod Awarded $10,000 as a 2020 American Heart Association’s ‘EmPOWERED to Serve Scholar’

HAMPTON, Va. (May 8, 2020) – Hampton University student Sierra Williams-McLeod was recently selected to receive $10,000 as a 2020 EmPOWERED to Serve Scholar. The American Heart Association EmPOWERED to Serve Scholars are college freshmen, sophomores and juniors working as agents of change to create health equity in their communities. She was selected as one of ten students from over 50 entries from college students across the United States.

“Ms. Sierra Williams-McLeod is an extraordinary student who epitomizes the Hampton University Standard of Excellence. Her passion for providing basic essentials to students in need is truly commendable. Congratulations on this truly auspicious accolade,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey.

Williams-McLeod is a junior, Biochemistry major, Spanish minor from Charlotte, NC. In order to receive this accolade, Williams-McLeod had to provide her background information, write a few essays and send in a video addressing what health equity means to her and how she has been an advocate for change in the community. Williams-McLeod is passionate about reducing health disparities and helping low-income, minority and first-generation students who face poverty and food insecurity.

“In my video, I spoke about the Hampton University Pirate Pantry, which I co-founded with my friend, Shelby Goodson, in 2019,” Williams-McLeod said. “HU Pirate Pantry is an on-campus pantry located in the Student Support Services Department that provides food and toiletry items to HU students at no cost. To date, HU Pirate Pantry has recovered over 200 pounds of food and 600+ toiletry items and redistributed them to those who need it the most. Pirate Pantry is especially close to my heart because I know it is helping to reduce food insecurity that many college students face on a daily basis.”

Along with the $10,000 that Williams-McLeod will receive, she will also be given opportunities to engage, volunteer and collaborate with the American Heart Association. “I am truly excited to be selected as an EmPOWERED to Serve Scholar. Thank you to the American Heart Association for granting me the opportunity to showcase my passion for reducing health disparities among the African American community,” Williams-McLeod said.

Dr. Ethlyn Gibson, Associate Professor at the Hampton University’s School of Nursing and Director of the HU Center for Gerontology Excellence, is excited for Williams-Mcleod’s recognition. “I am very proud as a faculty member for Hampton University and as a member of the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association to see a young woman with such a passion to help her fellow students live healthy. Sierra is planning an all-day nutrition event for September 2020 when the students arrive back on campus so I hope everyone can participate.”

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, launched the EmPOWERED to Serve Scholars program in 2018 to empower college students focused on improving the health and well-being of their communities.

“Sierra is the only student in the entire Eastern States region to be awarded this scholarship. As a Hampton University alumna, I am extremely proud of her efforts to combat food insecurity on campus and to lead the way by creating a solution to a growing problem during this pandemic and beyond,” said MeShall Hills, Executive Director of the American Heart Association in Hampton Roads. “The American Heart Association is committed to investing in young people with ingenuity and drive to make the world a healthier place for all.”

After Williams-McLeod graduates from Hampton, she plans on matriculating into a biomedical research doctoral program to fulfill her aspirations of becoming a neuroscientist. “I hope to utilize cellular and molecular techniques to develop novel therapies for neurodegenerative diseases,” Williams-McLeod said.

For more information about the scholarship, please visit this website: https://www.empoweredtoserve.org/en/empowered-scholar

To view the joint EmPOWERED scholars video, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feY4WmPcu2U&list=PLrDeLRAEJG0ZjBjMwHzeoZ9yjJBUv1JD0

Sierra Williams-McLeod
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