ORANGEBURG, S.C. – Today, South Carolina State University’s Student Government Association President, Javonni D. Ayers, 21, was recognized by The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as it announced its eighth cohort of HBCU Scholars.
“When I first found out I was being recognized I was so excited because this is something that I really wanted,” Ayers said.
The program recognizes undergraduate, graduate and professional students across the nation for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement and more. This year, only 86 HBCU students were admitted into the eighth cohort of HBCU Scholars, and Ayers was one out of five students from this state to be admitted.
“In September during HBCU week, I will be flying to D.C. to meet with federal groups to talk about a few things and hopefully be able to bring back some opportunities for SC State. I’m grateful that I am in this position as SGA President, so I can do more advocating for our students while I’m in D.C.,” she said.
SGA President Javonni Ayers
The HBCU Scholars will take classes to learn more about the various federal departments in D.C. They will work with a list of groups including the U.S. Department of Education and NASA, and they will have one-on-one workshops for resume building, as well as leadership growth.
This initiative was designed to connect students with nonprofit, business and federal leaders to discuss professional development while identifying challenges HBCU students face when entering the workforce.
“I don’t do this for a title, I don’t do this to get recognition, I do this for the people who are coming after me and of course the people who were not able to be in the position I’m in now, such as my grandmothers,” Ayers said. “They fought for injustice and to now see that their granddaughter is in a position where they couldn’t have been in many years ago is an extreme honor and blessing.”
Last month, Ayers also was one of approximately 12 students selected to attend the first U.S. Department of Education HBCU Round Table virtual event. During the roundtable, the department discussed the American Families Plan from President Joe Biden that will help HBCUs subsidize tuition, Pell grant increases and other topics pertaining to the advancement of all HBCU students.
“There were quite a few things that we talked about, like proper funding for HBCUs around the United States. I talked to them about South Carolina State University being the only public four-year HBCU in South Carolina and how we have to compete with other schools in this state to get the proper funding,” Ayers said. “I also had the opportunity to give them the background of SC State. Eighty percent of our students come from South Carolina, and over 90 percent of our students are on Pell grants. So, this could definitely help our students and their families.”
Ayers said the Department of Education was unaware but very receptive to the concerns she brought up about SC State. She stated that for years, the university has struggled with funding and doesn’t receive as much as its competitors. This is something that she hopes can change through the round table talk.
“We’re trying to make sure this is an ongoing thing. I think it was amazing, I just pray to God that these roundtables keep going and that they actually listen to what we’re saying and make change throughout the nation when it comes to HBCUs, our campus, our community and our families,” Ayers said.
Ayers had a mix of emotions when she participated in the roundtable. She was nervous, but her excitement overpowered that because she knew she was helping to make a difference.
“I was humbled to be able to use my voice to advocate, not only for the students at SC State, but for all HBCU students. I’m also excited because I know that God put me in this position for a reason,” she said.