For close to two years now, I have been “beating the drum for HBCUs,” as former Claflin University Professor Patricia H. Koger calls it. Now, let’s fast forward to summer ‘16.

I “hit the ground running” as my mother told me when I came home. Within a week of me completing my junior year of school at Claflin University, I met with New York State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow and was able to gain his support with the initiative, as I updated him on all that was going on. I figured this would be appropriate since last year he made a commitment to become a sponsor. Within the next few weeks, I met NY Congressman Charles B. Rangel, legendary Civil Rights activist Al Sharpton, and former NYC Mayor David Dinkins. All of them, are outstanding and extremely knowledgeable men.

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As my summer picked up, I met with Yonkers, NY City Clerk Vincent E. Spano, spoke to NYC residents at The National Action Network in Harlem, read to elementary school students at Paideia School #24 in Yonkers, provided words of advice to students at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers and Truman High School in The Bronx and I was featured in Harlem Community Newspaper. On May 19, I met with business owner and rapper Jadakiss. Later that day, I met with NYS Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer. Both of whom, on the same day, sponsored The NYS HBCU Initiative! Jadakiss is a first time sponsor of the initiative and Assemblywoman Mayer has sponsored for the second time. Later that month, I fundraised with Mrs. Leigh-Bracey, Supervisor of Casework at DSS in Yonkers and met with Active Plus NYC founder Tarik Kitson and others of the Harlem Rotary.

Now, I was ready for the second part of my summer to begin. My first internship experience!

I interned through The UNCF and BAEO, the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Through BAEO, I was able to travel to Nashville, TN for The National Charter School Conference. I made sure to record numerous HBCU students on the campuses of Fisk, Meharry, and TSU. When back in NY, my uncle John Sherman Merritt and I made a discovery that traced our family back to the 1770s! Aside from that, I was able to catch up with Mr. Andres Martin, the Brooklyn Nets & Barclays Center Account Manager, and recorded even more HBCUs students at Howard University. As my summer began to come to a close, I had gained the support of LHHNY singer and songwriter Cardi B! I completed my second internship at the Yonkers District office of Westchester County DSS and most recently received a letter from Congressman Eliot L. Engel.

In a word, my summer was iconic. I want to thank everyone that has assisted me to get here. I was able to travel across the country this summer. I am humbled to have had a rapid networking experience.

I thank God for all that he has done and continues to do for me. Next stop, senior year!

Dennis Richmond Jr., a rising graduating senior at Claflin University, is a member of the Class of 2016 HBCU Top 30 Under 30 list. He advocates for HBCUs through his New York State HBCU Initiative.