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Clark Atlanta University cancels student account balances for 2020-2021 school year

Clark Atlanta University announced this week that they will cancel student account balances from the spring 2020 semester through the summer 2021 semester.

University President Dr. George T. French said all student account balances from that time period will be brought to zero. The relief also applies to alumni.

“We understand these past two academic years have been emotionally and financially difficult on students and their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we will continue to do all we can to support their efforts to complete their CAU education,” said President French. “We care about students and want to lighten their individual and family’s financial load so they can continue their journey in pursuing and attaining their educational and professional goals.”

French said the university’s ability to provide relief is due to the substantial amount of support it has gotten from the federal government under the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

With the funds, CAU has been able to provide emergency financial aid dollars, refund some housing and meal charges, discount tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 school year, buy WIFI hot spots for students with no internet at home and buy 4,000 laptops for every financially enrolled student.

This initiative will not impact students’ future financial aid eligibility because it is a one-time outstanding balance cancelation.

Clark Atlanta University isn’t the first HBCU to help students financially because of the pandemic.
In May, Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, announced it will cancel student debt for 2020 and 2021 graduates. The president of the university said at the time that the total amount of cleared debt would be more than $375,000.

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LSU offers National Spelling Bee winner, Zaila Avant-gard, a full scholarship

Louisiana State University (LSU) on Saturday offered , Zaila Avant-garde, the first African American contestant to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a full scholarship.

Avant-garde has drawn attention following her win. The teen has garnered praise in the past few days for her athletic prowess after it was noted the same child has notched multiple Guinness World Records for basketball.

Tony O. Lawson

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Curtis Lawrence III Graduated High School Early, Was Accepted to 14 Colleges and Chose an HBCU

In 2014, Curtis Lawrence III began taking dual enrollment courses at School Without Walls High School and George Washington University.

This spring, he will earn his Associates Degree and head to FAMU where he will pursue a double major in computer science and biology as well as a minor in Mandarin.

Curtis Lawrence III

Lawrence has also been awarded over $1.65 Million in Merit Scholarships. He was also accepted to Howard University, North Carolina A&T University, Morehouse College, Hampton University, Morgan State University, Claflin University, Hutson-Tillotson University, George Washington University, West Virginia Wesleyan, UC Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Yale and Harvard.

Lawrence’s love for education started at a young age. His parents, both educators, instilled the importance of school into he and his younger brother Corey early on, constantly taking them on trips to different museums, colleges, states and countries to expose them to what the world has to offer.

The competition is stiff among universities to recruit top young scholars. Dedra O’Neal, director of the FAMU Scholarship Program, has conducted Zoom calls with alumni scholars and prospective students since last fall.

The recruitment effort deploys alumni based in places such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Zambia, the Caribbean, France, and across the U.S. to discuss the FAMU scholar experience with top prospective students.

FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson lauded Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. William E. Hudson Jr. for his role in successfully recruiting Lawrence. Hudson visited Lawrence’s Washington, D.C., high school, School Without Walls at George Washington University, last fall.

Lawrence said FAMU felt like home and explained one of the reasons he wants to be a Rattler: “Especially as a young student having been able to meet other students who also started college early at FAMU, and so I was able to really know that FAMU will provide me with that academic and professional support on top of schooling.”

Curtis Lawrence III
Curtis and his family | Credit: TN Democrat

Florida A&M University is competing with the best schools in the country to get top of the line students, including sixteen year old Curtis Lawrence III.

The young scholar now with his sights set on his undergraduate degree in which he doesn’t have to pay a dime.

Lawrence III could’ve continued his education at almost any university in the country but for his undergrad degree, his parents pushed an HBCU.

“We felt that at their start, right, at those fundamental times when you figure it out yourself. Who am I? What am I going to do in life?,” explained Curtis’ father Curtis Lawrence Jr. “To be in an environment that we felt would be nurturing I’m very supportive of their development. So that was very very important for us to create that level of foundation.”



Kelisha Williams, From Foster Care To Harvard on a Full Scholarship

When Kelisha Williams was younger, she told her teachers she wanted to be the president when she grew up. She is now one step closer to her dream as she prepares to head to Harvard University in the fall.

Kelisha Williams entered the foster care system at 16 years old, and she said it has been a tough few years in the system. She has moved five times in less than two years before ending up with SAFY foster mom Maria Finkenstead.

Williams was working at Walmart and preparing for college when Finkenstead asked her how college admissions were going.

“I said, ‘Hey did you take the ACT?'” Finkenstead said. “She said, ‘Yeah,’ and I said, ‘Well, what did you get?’ And she’s like, a 32, and I was like, ‘You can go anywhere!'”

“When I applied to Harvard, I applied to Harvard as a joke,” Williams said. “I didn’t think I was going to get in.”

What started as a joke became more real as the days went on. As part of Harvard’s admissions interview, Williams spoke with Michelle Obama and Lin Manuel Miranda. During the interviews, Williams asked Obama how she kept going with so many people working against her.

Now, Williams is preparing to study political science and psychology on a full-ride scholarship to Harvard.

“She’s done all the work. All the determination has come from her,” Finkenstead said. “I take no credit in any of her accomplishments.”

“To any of the foster kids that are watching, everyone always says it’s going to get better. I never used to believe that when I was going through it and stuff like that,” Williams said. “Eventually it does.”




12 Yr Old Genius Attending College, Plans To Become a NASA Engineer

Alena Wicker is only 12 years old and is set to attend Arizona State University this month. Attending college before she’s a teenager isn’t her only lofty goal — the young Black mind has dreams to reach the stars and plans to start by double majoring in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry so she can get her foot in the door at NASA.

Alena Wicker

Though her occupation has jumped from being an astronomer to engineering, her mother, Daphne McQuarter, says that the dream has always been NASA. “She would always say, ‘Mommy, I’m going to work for NASA.’ Then she would start saying, ‘I’m going to be the youngest Black girl to ever work for NASA—watch.”

The jump from astronomer to engineering makes perfect sense when you consider Alena’s main passion: Legos. Alena doesn’t just play with them, she builds with them, and the harder the project, the better.

She’s recently built the Taj Mahal, the Disney castle, the Millenium Falcon, and appropriately, the Apollo 11 rover and a NASA rocket. One build alone took Alena up to 15 hours, running on zero sleep over two days, and it’s only the beginning.  Alena doesn’t want to just build Lego rovers; she wants to build real ones.

It didn’t go unnoticed how little the STEM field catered to Black girls like Alena, though. Women made up half of all US workers in STEM, but only from the medical standpoint. There aren’t many women in the classrooms or the workplaces of the computers and engineering fields, and it’s largely due to lack of support.

Even more shocking, Black people only made up 9% of all STEM workers. Wanting to bridge the gap and create a safe space for people like her, Alena launched her own website: Brown Stem Girl (BSG), which was created for “supporting and educating girls of color around the world about the importance of STEM and how to excel in it.”

Science isn’t Alena’s only talent, though. In true cosmopolitan fashion, Alena is also learning Spanish and Arabic, two languages that will no doubt give her an edge over her peers, and she is currently writing a children’s book titled “Brainiac World.”

Alena’s next big undertaking: a podcast. Alongside her website, Alena’s working on a podcast to be released sometime this month. “My podcast is to encourage girls in STEM by bringing other women and girls of STEM to ask and answer questions,” Alena says when asked about her plans for the show. One of the first people she’d like to have on the podcast is Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black female to travel to space, to get her perspective of what it’s like being an astronaut as a Black woman.

Dr. Mae Jemison

Incoming college student, future NASA engineer, writer, and entrepreneur: It’s clear that big things are on the horizon for Alena. The twelve-year-old and her mother teased that NASA has already contacted her, so maybe Alena will reach the stars sooner than later. But for now, she’s got a new Lego set to build and a future to plan.




Mom Follows Her Sons to FAMU and Earns Her Degree

In most cases, college-bound students find themselves counting down the days, eager to leave the home nest and parents behind, to move on campus, meet new friends and get underway with studies.

Parents, in the meantime, shield their anxieties and wish them well, while inwardly jumping for joy at this rite-of-passage send-off.

But, in rare circumstances, there are cases like Madelyn McClarey and her twin sons’ decision to study at Florida A&M University – together.

Rather than leaving mom back in South Florida, Aaron and Aubrey Hough insisted she join them in Tallahassee.

Madelyn McClarey will graduate from Florida A&M University this Saturday, May 4 with a degree in English with a minor in education. (Photo: Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat)

On Saturday, they will celebrate as McClarey crosses the stage at the Lawson Center, graduating with a degree in English from Florida A&M.

For the single mom, it represents a finish line that she’s been edging toward since completing business school in Staten Island, then returning to South Florida following a divorce, holding down full-time jobs, volunteering in her sons’ schools and traveling with them as a band parent.

But what landed her at FAMU was the opportunity presented to her twins, Aubrey, a music business major who will be graduating this fall and Aaron, who is earning a specialized degree in music composition and expects to graduate in the summer or fall 2020.

The family that studies together stays together

McClarey’s sons did well in their studies and are talented musicians, earning Best & Brightest scholarships, meaning they could have gone to Broward College at no cost.

But both were inspired by Chandler Wilson, their band director at Hollywood Hills High School in Hollywood, a FAMU graduate and former Marching 100 member.

He planted the seed.

The twins, enamored with FAMU, were accepted and had the opportunity to join the band. But there was a catch.

“I knew they wanted to go to FAMU, they loved FAMU, but they looked at me and asked, ‘What about you?’ I told them I would stay in South Florida and finish my degree, but they said they would not go to FAMU if I didn’t come to Tallahassee.”

That nearly floored her.

“I was really shocked, I laughed,” McClarey said, sitting in a corner of the busy Coleman Library a week before finals. “I knew we were really close, but I didn’t expect them to react like that.

But I said, ‘fine, I’ll pack, let’s go.’”

McClarey took a one-year leave of absence from her job as a language coach at Sheridan Hills Elementary and found a townhouse in Tallahassee. The twins were on campus and now in off-campus housing. McClarey and an older son, Blake, who is finishing his studies at Tallahassee Community College, live together.

She enrolled at TCC, earning an associate of arts degree, with honors. In 2016, she enrolled at FAMU through the IGNITE program, which offers students from transfer schools meeting academic standards, guaranteed admission.

She’s majoring in English, with a minor in Education.

(Photo: Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat)

“My mother’s family is from North Carolina A&T and Fayetteville State, and so growing up, we were always encouraged to write, to speak properly, to not only verbalize our ideas, but also to be able to write fluently,” she said of her choice of major.

At FAMU, she has thrived, immersing herself in organizations such as the FAMU English Guild, where she served as president, the National Council of Negro Women, and serving as historian for Phi Delta Kappa, a professional organization for educators.

During the summer, she’s worked with the North Florida Freedom Schools program at FAMU’s Developmental Research School, which helps bridge the gap for children with reading deficiencies.

“Madelyn McClarey is absolutely amazing,” said Natalie King-Pedroso, associate professor in the Department of English and Modern Languages. “She is one of the most life-affirming people I’ve met during my tenure at FAMU.”

‘We look out for each other’

McClarey’s twins have their own life on campus, but they remain close. She recalls one conversation following their performance at a football game.

“I asked them if they needed me to do anything for them and they said, ‘No, Mom, you have done everything a parent should do.’ “

Aubrey said it was “important” for them to have their mother move to Tallahassee from their base in South Florida.

“It wasn’t exactly luxurious, but our mother was smart enough to make her situation work, and we were all the more fortunate to grow up how we did in the sense that because of her balancing struggle and success the way she did, we developed our own values.”

Aaron is equally inspired.

Her twin sons, Aaron and Aubrey Hough, both earned scholarships to FAMU

“I’m most proud of the fact that she was able to earn this degree despite having gone through so much as a single parent and as a person,” he said. “I’m glad that she was able to see her decision with this degree through, and it means a lot to our family that she is able to attain her degree finally, regardless of the many familial situations throughout her collegiate experience.”

McClarey is planning on continuing her educational journey at FAMU. She’s applying to a multidisciplinary graduate program, where she will major in history.

Pausing for a moment, she is reflective. It hasn’t always been easy, but she and her sons remain focused. She’s proud that their independence has not diminished the close bond that has been affirming for each of them.

“We look out for each other,” she said. “We are willing to wait our turn for great things to happen. We sacrifice time, material things. That’s just what we do. We celebrate each other all the time.”


Source: Tallahasee Democrat


Harvard Students Hold The First “Black Graduation”

Earlier today, Black students at Harvard Univeristy held what was described as “the first ever university-wide commencement ceremony honoring graduating students who identify with the African diaspora.”

“We really wanted an opportunity to give voice to the voiceless at Harvard,” said Michael Huggins, president of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, a campus group that planned the ceremony.

“So many students identify with the African diaspora but don’t necessarily feel welcome as part of the larger community, and they don’t feel like their stories are being shared.”

Harvard joins a growing number of universities that have added graduation events for students of different ethnicities.

Some have offered Black commencement ceremonies for years, including Stanford University, Marshall University and the University of Washington.

Some have added them more recently, and are also adding events for a variety of cultural groups.

“This event is truly open for everyone,” said Huggins. “We really want this to be an open affair where people can learn about some experiences that often go unnoticed.”

Photo credit: Jesse Costa/WBUR

Even with that said, you know Black folks can’t get together and celebrate excellence without some people feeling salty about it.


Some people just won’t understand the need for a space like this. It isn’t our job to convince them of the necessity either. Congratulations to all the graduates!



-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson




SpelHouse (Spelman & Morehouse) Alumni Owned Businesses

We’re back showing more HBCU entrepreneur love! This time to our brothers and sisters at SpelHouse aka Spelman College and Morehouse College. Check out a few of the business owners that these esteemed institutions have produced.

Spelhouse Alumni Owned Businesses

DCity Smokehouse The Washington Post dubbed it “the finest barbecue establishment in town.” Founder: Melvin Hines


Mischo Beauty (Washington D.C.) is an Award-Winning Luxury, Eco-Conscious Cosmetics Brand. Founder: Kitiya Mischo King


Oyin Handmade (Baltimore) is a fun-loving hair and body natural product line for men, women, and children. Co-Founder: Jamyla Bennu 


Pindrop is an information security company that provides risk scoring for phone calls to detect fraud and authenticate callers. Co-Founder: Dr. Paul Judge

Perennial Strategy Group (Washington, D.C.) is a strategic advisory firm that provides government, public, community relations, and public affairs services. Founder: Lamell McMorris


Onion Cut & Sewn (Harlem) features beautiful effortless clothes that feel like lotion. Founder: Whitney Mero


Posh & Private (Houston) is a special event firm that offers event design, planning, and consulting for corporate and social events. Founders:  Husband and wife team Brandon Carson (Morehouse) and Brandi Carson (Spelman)


Dental Kidz (Newark) is a full service pediatric dental & orthodontic practice. Serving infants, children, & special needs patients, they offer in-office sedation & hospital services. Co-Founder: Dr. Lezli Levene Harvell, D.M.D


Florida Avenue Grill (Washington D.C.) is one of the Chocolate City’s oldest soul food spots New owner: Imar Hutchins


Frederick Benjamin (New York) is a premium grooming line that fuses the power of natural ingredients with the art of science, all while honoring the elements of style. Founder: Michael James


Bingham-Lester Dentistry (Maryland) offers preventive, restorative, and surgical care. Founder:Dr. Vickii Bingham-Lester DMD


The Law Office of Council & Associates (Atlanta) is a law firm specializing in representing victims of automobile accidents, trucking accidents, daycare center neglect, and slips and falls. Founder: Lashonda Council Rogers

Joyful Delights Sweets (Atlanta) makes designs edible, cake pop favors as well as dessert tablescapes. Their customized and handmade cake pops ship nationwide and have been given as favors for birthdays, bridal showers, weddings, graduations, retirements, and corporate events. Founder: Joy Andrews


Sanford Biggers (Harlem) creates art that integrates film, video, installation, sculpture, drawing, original music, and performance. Founder: Sanford Biggers


Bovanti Cosmetics (Atlanta) is a diverse family owned cosmetics brand that “empowers women through and educational workshops, seminars, makeup classes, and beauty tours.”  Co-Founder: Anita Bohannon


Source Booksellers (Detroit) is an independent bookstore that offers a unique niche of non-fiction books.  Founder: Janet Webster Jones


Tony O. Lawson

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