By: Johnson C. Smith University
Charlotte, N.C./May 23, 2023 – Johnson C. Smith University’s newest mentor initiative, the Becoming Kings program, earned the institution the 2022 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA).
Only one organization, institution or individual from each state receives the award each year, which speaks to the selectivity and prestige of this award. The award was presented in early May at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“It was so exciting to be a part of such a national event and have the spotlight on our beloved institution,” said Jennifer Joyner, director of the Center for Career and Postgraduate Readiness. “To receive an award from FBI Director Christopher Wray was beyond our wildest dreams and to represent North Carolina was amazing. I saw the students beaming with pride and even considering new career possibilities. It was amazingly special.”
Students Ione L. Brewer, Jamerya Kelley, Mariah Callahan, Devin Hill and Jamonte A. Gray attended the ceremony alongside Joyner, Dr. Angela White, Dr. Anita Bledsoe-Garner and Octavius Rice. Each played a unique role in the Becoming Kings program.
The six-week program aims to mentor male students by engaging them in academic preparation, career exploration and cultural activities to prepare them for success in the fall semester and beyond.
Not only did the program help young men entering college for the first time, but it also helped students who were invited to participate as mentors in the program.
Kelley served as the program’s first enrollment management paraprofessional intern where she mentored the Becoming Kings participants and ensured the program operated efficiently.
“As a student at JCSU, I knew I wanted to be involved in any way I could,” said Kelley. “But the program I enjoyed the most was Becoming Kings. Every week, I made it a priority to take my mentees to different companies to get them internships and create a familiarity with the workforce in Uptown Charlotte. I was able to give back to my University while establishing a bond with my mentees in the program.”
In July 2022, FBI Charlotte hosted the group at its local offices and gave students a behind-the-scenes look at day-to-day operations within the Bureau. The FBI has also partnered with JCSU on initiatives such as career fairs, the FBI Citizens Academy, a two-day HBCU recruiting blitz, classroom speaking engagements and the JCSU employer roundtable.
According to FBI Charlotte, JCSU’s partnership has been valuable in the FBI’s quest to increase diversity and inclusion within the federal law enforcement agency.
“The FBI is honored to be able to recognize JCSU for the work they do every day, not only to help their students excel in school and in life, but to help the FBI become more reflective of the communities we serve,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert M. DeWitt. “Diversity is one of the FBI’s core values. The partnership with JCSU helps us work towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce.”
DeWitt presented a DCLA certificate to Joyner during a local ceremony on campus on March 20, 2023, but Joyner traveled with colleagues to Washington, D.C., in early May to receive the official award from Wray.
While in the area, the JCSU delegation was able to meet up with JCSU alumni Stefanie “Holloway” Tynes ’08, Demetria Bell ’10, Latesha Jackson ’06 and Erika Johnson ’04 for dinner the night prior to the ceremony. They also took a trip to the MLK Memorial before returning to Charlotte.
“I believe relationships are key as it relates to building partnerships for our students,” said Joyner. “The FBI has been a key partner in their commitment to the Beacon Project and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion within the Bureau. They have been fantastic and eager to lead and participate across campus. We will definitely continue to collaborate across all programs, including Becoming Kings. Our goal is to develop young professionals and provide access and exposure to students willing to consider the FBI and federal/civil servant jobs as a viable career path.”