2017 HBCU Top 30 Under 30

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) produce more than a quarter of all African-American graduates in the country and are responsible for producing the nation’s leading black citizens. Revolutionary civil rights leaders, doctors, religious leaders, bankers, writers, Olympians, lawyers, musicians, engineers, actors/actresses, humanitarians, professional athletes, educators, scientists, and politicians that hail from historically black campuses, all graduate with more than a degree or honors.

An HBCU education is a world class one, and it is found both in the classroom and on the yard. Amid intensifying cultural tensions, political warfare, and blatant appropriation and injustices targeted toward people of color, we are thrilled to celebrate the black community and highlight 30 stellar young minds.

Every year, the HBCU Top 30 Under 30 honors talented and selfless young men and women who are making phenomenal steps forward in a multitude of industries including education/academia, science, sports, fashion, journalism, technology, business, community/public service, politics, and entertainment. Check out the former classes here.

This year, with nominations more than doubling from last year, we are exceptionally proud to present the 2017 HBCU Top 30 Under 30 class. Congratulations to the young leaders who are honored and congratulations to the esteemed historically black colleges and universities that have unquestionably helped mold these leaders of today and tomorrow.

Timothy Moore |  Harris-Stowe State University (30)

Timothy Moore, better known simply as “T.Moore” is the Founder and CEO of T. Moore Media and he is one of the few individuals who possess the ability to capture moments through a lens and allow their stories to live authentically through a single moment. Moore began his career in photography almost eight years ago as a high school student and since then he has grown to become more than just your average photographer.  He now serves as a Creative Director & Branding Specialist for some of the world’s leading brands. To bring his most iconic visions to life, he has always dedicated his energy to aligning his vision to opportunities that he can use to help change the trajectory of the next generation.

As T.Moore begins preparation for 2018, he is tirelessly working to develop new programs and outlets to start serving his community and various industries. With a mission to serve T.Moore is sure to continue raising the bar with his hustle and innovation. Anyone can take a photograph. But not many people have the ability to capture a moment in its true essence. And while it is very true that a picture is worth a thousand words, not many pictures can tell you an entire story. In the words of T.Moore, “If you keep your head low and your hustle high, then you’ll find yourself on the other side of fear by the time you look up.”

Sapphira E. Martin | Johnson C Smith University (29)

Queens, NY Native, Sapphira E. Martin is a Full-Time sassy Entrepreneur. With a boss mindset instilled in her at a young age, becoming an Entrepreneur has always been her number one goal. After graduating from Johnson C. Smith University with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Communication Arts and interning her way to the top, Sapphira acquired the “ dream job.” She worked as a Social Media and Content Producer at Emmis Communications. Being able to create content for the very audience and generation that she was a part of was so rewarding. However, there was something more rewarding about working for herself while positively uplifting black women, thus SassBoxx was born.

Living by Habbakuk 2:2 “Write the vision, make it plain.” Sapphira believes that you truly have to see yourself where you want to be and envision all your desires to happen. Over a year later, SassBoxx has shown tremendous growth. SassBoxx is a monthly subscription box that offers products exclusively from businesses owned by black women. Sapphira was inspired to create SassBoxx because she saw there was a need for businesses owned by black women in the African American community to be uplifted and financially supported. “Of course the many subscriptions that came before me played a major role in inspiring SassBoxx” she said. “But it was definitely the hardest working, biggest spending demographic, black women. “SassBoxx is meant to create a huge network and sisterhood of African American women that support, uplift and inspire one another.

For Sapphira, she hasn’t been happier and more liberal than she is now. She’s more appreciative of her business now because the time and effort she spends on it has already lead to great things. She’s providing a platform for women of color business owners, celebrating and honoring women entrepreneur’s through SassBoxx’s six city Brunch Series Tour, and speaking, inspiring and uplifting all black women through “ Black Girl Podcast” in which she co-hosts with four other amazing women in media; discussing everything under the sun. Sapphira’s goal is to continue flourishing and lifting her fellow sister up alongside her!

DeJonique N. Garrison | Clark Atlanta University (28)

DeJonique Garrison is an anchor/investigative reporter for 12 News Now. Prior to making her way to Southeast Texas, she was a multimedia journalist concentrating on government affairs at WFXG Fox 54 in Augusta, Georgia. DeJonique graduated magna cum laude from Clark Atlanta University in 2011 with a degree in Mass Media Arts. While there, DeJonique served as a member of the Essence Dance Line, Admissions Ambassadors, Junior Class Council, and Miss Black and Gold Georgia for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. The position that DeJonique held in the highest regard during her matriculation was being crowned Miss Clark Atlanta University 2010-2011. In that capacity, she was able to mentor students, advocate for the institution, and raise awareness surrounding the importance and relevance of HBCU’s in the 21st Century. DeJonique capped off her reign by being voted as one of the nation’s top ten campus queens for Ebony Magazine.

Her southern roots, specifically experiencing natural disaster and political scandals in her hometown of New Orleans, La., created the foundation for her passion of service through reporting. Before devoting her career to storytelling, DeJonique worked for the extras casting department for MTV Productions and Bunim/Murray Productions on projects that included The Real World, Teen Wolf and Worst Cooks in America.

She then went on to complete a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in December 2014. During that program, she was able to report on the education and immigration beats via both the streets of Chicago and committee rooms of Washington D.C. That range of perspective has helped DeJonique relate to a plethora of populations, boosting her ability to effectively tell balanced stories.

Kimberly F. Monroe | Grambling University (27)

Kimberly F. Monroe is a two-time graduate of Grambling State University. Having received a Bachelor’s in History in 2012 and Master’s in Mass Communication and History in 2015, she is continuing her education as a third year Ph.D. student at Howard University. At Howard she is a history major concentrating in African Diaspora and Women’s studies. While a student at Grambling, she was an editor for the school newspaper The Gramblinite, a member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, and founder of Natural Sistahs, an organization for natural haired women on campus.

On the national level, she served as the historian for the National Black Graduate Student Association from 2014 to 2016. In 2016, she published her first book titled Homecoming in Tigerland with Mascot Books as a way to give back to her Alma mater. Homecoming in Tigerland was written as a way to expose children to Grambling and HBCUs at an early age. While there is a need for more youth to attend college, Monroe’s goal is to expose children to the rich history of HBCUs by highlighting homecoming, football, marching bands and more.

As a doctoral student studying the African Diaspora and Women’s Studies, Monroe is also the secretary of the Howard Graduate Student Council and president of the History Graduate Student Association. Over the past two years, she has studied abroad in London, Paris, and Tanzania. In Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, she became fluent in Swahili in order to teach it in her classroom. Swahili has always been the language of revolution for many prominent African American leaders. She feels as though an African language like Swahili supports the rich Africana presence of HBCUs.

Kimberly devotes her time mentoring HBCU undergraduate students with their graduate application process. As a Life Member of the Grambling University National Alumni Association (GUNAA) she continues to support Grambling as the secretary of the Washington DC Alumni chapter, and returns to speak to current students whenever possible. Upon graduation from Howard University, Monroe plans to become a History professor at an HBCU. As Lake Charles, Louisiana native, she is in the process of creating a non-profit organization to help high school seniors from her hometown matriculate to college. She will also continue her mission to ensure more undergraduate students attend graduate school.

Most recently, her efforts were recognized by DC Metro Alumni Alliance by being the awarded the “Young Alumni Award.” This honor will be given in September to highlight the work she has done in the community and for HBCUs. She was also recognized at the Grambling Alumni Convention, which took place in Los Angeles California by receiving the “Distinguished Alumni Award Freshman Category.” The Howard University Graduate Student Council presented her with the “Most Likely to Publish Conscious Raising Books.” Her forthcoming book, which will be released August 1st, is titled So Lyrical, If Feels Spiritual and compiles eight contributing women poets, all of whom graduated from Grambling.  As an author, HBCU advocate, mentor, and historian, this young alum deserves recognition for all she has done and is going to do for HBCUs across the nation.

Shaquille Dillon | Southern University & A&M College (26)

Friend, brother, mentor, advisor, leader, designer, humanitarian, are a few words to describe Shaquille Dillon. I’d like to call him “The Small Town Hero“. Mr. Shaquille Dillon is a 26 year old native of Franklinton, Louisiana. He began his matriculation at Southern University and A&M College in the Fall 2009 semester. Since his arrival on the Mighty Bluff of Mississippi River, Shaquille has not only served his university in leaderships roles but his community as well. Upon his graduation in the Fall 2013 semester, he was the Sophomore Class President 2010-11, Vice President of the T.J. Jemison Baptist Student Union 2010-11, Men’s Federation President 2011-12, Collegiate 100 Black Men President 2012-13, a Jaguar Ambassador for three consecutive years, and also served on Miss Southern University Royal Court for three years. Shaquille enjoyed traveling and encouraging students to seek higher education during his undergraduate years. In the summer of 2014, Southern University approached him with an opportunity to become an Admissions Recruiter.

This opportunity began his journey in Higher Education where he had found his passion in life. The native of a small town gave the university a new directive in marketing the institution which eventually increased enrollment. He is a active member of the Southern University Alumni Home Chapter, has been the advisor to Men’s Federation for three consecutive years, the Historian, Education Chair, Juneteenth 2017 Chair – where he helped raised 12,500 in scholarships, and Scholarship Gala Co-Chair of the Beta Iota Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and also serves on Advisory Board to the Beta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Dillon was selected to be the Keynote Speaker of the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Program in his hometown, where he encourage the youth to seek higher education and the community to invest in our youth’s education. He was presented the Unsung Hero Award at the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight Vigil and Program hosted by Southern University Office of Student Life and the Beta Sigma Alphas.

Shaquille lead the Beta Iota Lambda and Beta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to victory, winning the National Charles H. Wesley Award at the 94th General Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. this summer. At the 2017 NASAP SLI Conference in Savannah, Georgia, Shaquille was presented with the Male Advisor of the Year Award, voted on by the 44 HBCUs leaders that were present at the conference. On August 1, 2017, Dillon will begin his new role as Assistant Director of Recruitment at Southern University and A&M College.

Amber G. Johnson | Spelman College (25)

Amber Gayle Johnson is a 2017 Woman of Excellence and Leadership Scholar, a Young Ambassador for the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst(DAAD), a CIEE HBCU Scholar and a Benjamin A. Gilman International  Scholar. She also speaks German, is a a two time Investigative Reporters and Editors(IRE) Knight Scholar, a Lead UPS Community Service Scholar, the Co-Special Events Director of the Spelman College Student  Government Association and the 1st Female PR Director and Business  Manager of the Maroon Tiger Student Media Group at Morehouse College.

She spends her free time reading, traveling, working and volunteering in her  community and is an influential leader at her school of Spelman College. She studies Comparative Women’s Studies & Political Science and she aspires to be a philanthropist, educational consultant and superintendent of a  school district. She will use her background in gender studies, research skills, German language skills and leadership experiences to help fund and uplift the students of the future.

Aria Hill | Hampton University (24)

Aria entered Hampton University as a merit scholar. Throughout her collegiate career at Hampton University, Hill has answered her call to lead in countless ways on campus and in the neighboring Hampton Roads, Virginia community. Her passion for being the “voice” of the students, led her to Student Government Association Senate which she joined in 2014, and currently participates in as Chair of Buildings and Grounds. Soon thereafter, Hill received the Hillary Clinton Award, being honored for her recognizable ambition.

That ambition led her to be very active on and off campus and she joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., served as Executive Secretary of Volunteers Around the World, held an internship with Texan Dental, tutored in the campus university assessment center, conducted CVD research using zebrafish interning for one of her professors, and is an active member in American Pharmacist Association Academy of Student Pharmacist and Student National Pharmaceutical Association.

As if her hands weren’t already full, Hill created “Senators in Action”, establishing a program for student leaders to actively service the community. This ultimately led to the birth of Service Spree. Service Spree became the bridge that students on campus used for public and community service. The non-profit provides and schedules assistance for social service organizations throughout the Virginia Peninsula; making those who desire to serve, aware of many opportunities.

As the liaison of service opportunities throughout the Peninsula area, it has obligation to remain in constant communication with the leaders of 10 organizations and connect them to volunteers. The Service Spree motto is: “Providing helping hands of service throughout our community” currently has over 400 hands who serve at 10 community sites including local churches, hospitals, Habitat for Humanity, and mentorship organizations. The young organization is expanding and has developed new initiatives: 1- a big brother mentoring program for middle school young men-Gentilligence, 2- a program providing young women living in shelters with purses filled will feminine hygiene products-Passionate Purses, and 3- a scholarship program awarding Hampton students studying abroad-Service Spree Across the 7 Seas.

The young pharmacy major and non-profit owner is dedicated to the community and the study of medicine and her favorite quote is “When God sends you His calling to serve, you must be an open vessel.”

Russell Pointer Jr. | Morehouse College (23)

On January 29, 1994, Russell Andrew Pointer, Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and he was raised in Gallatin, Tennessee. Russell graduated from Morehouse College with a BA in Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education with a minor in Leadership Studies. Currently, Russell is pursuing a Master’s in Sport Management at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Once he has completed this program, he plans to begin a JD/M.Div program.

Ultimately, Russell wants to work to provide a voice and equal opportunity for minority and at-risk populations. He also wants to set a standard of high character and high work ethic within a program to create a culture of better coaches and athletes on and off the court.

Russell always had a heart to praise God. He began his music ministry at the age of  11, and he began preaching at the age of 19 under the tutelage of Russell Andrew Pointer, Sr., his father. Through his ministry, Russell desires to provide hope to his peers and inspire others to walk closer with the Lord.

NaAsiaha Simon | Wilberforce University (22)

NaAsiaha Simon is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Mu Zeta Omega Chapter. She is the Co-Chief Executive Officer and Director of Media and Publicity for The NxD Group. Her specialties include, but are not limited to: Event Production, Marketing, Branding, Media, and Public Relations. From inception to execution, whether for a social event or brand development, NaAsiaha aims to create well-tailored strategies in line with her clients’ goals and vision. As a member of a close-knit family, NaAsiaha understands the value of a strong community and activism, in all aspects of life. With her most recent project, she chose to celebrate her 27th birthday with the launch of “Project 27K”, an initiative created to raise awareness on reading fundamentals, by gathering 27,000+ book donations for the youth in her hometown Fresno, California and the surrounding area.

Her education has laid the groundwork for strong leadership and interpersonal skills, and her passion for people and service has been nurtured through her central desire of giving back. Simon is no stranger to running businesses, for the past 2 years she’s ran her public relations firm with her business partner, Damilola Bajamo. She personifies the new guard of PR strategists who has her finger on the zeitgeist of the intersection of issues, the news cycle, and pop-culture and consistently positions her clients to break through. She remains behind the scenes, helping to propel artists and influencers such as Hill Harper, Nate Parker, Lance Gross, YG, Angel Brinks and Amber Rose while placing clients in outlets including Revolt TV, VH1, TMZ, Essence Magazine, Bossip, Necole Bitchie and many more.

Now, she’s embarking on a new journey to take on a whole new feat; empowering the school that taught her so much. In July, NaAsiaha will walk through the threshold of Wilberforce University once again but this time, as staff serving as the Director of Public Relations & Marketing. Her journey will surely be something meaningful to witness.

Tamara Bates | Philander Smith College (21)

Tamara L. Bates, a native of Memphis, TN who is a 2016 graduate of Philander Smith College, where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. She is active with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Ambitious Girls Inc , and Central Arkansas Urban League Young Professionals. During her tenure at Philander Smith, Tamara was selected by President Obama to serve as a  2015 White House HBCU-allstar. She was involved on campus which ultimately lead her to receiving student of the year award.

She is founder of RockARVote, a non-partisan political initiative to mobilize  and educate millennial voters about the importance of voters education. Post graduate Tamara worked as field organizer for former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in Tallahassee, Florida.  After building so many relationships through networking, Tamara was given an opportunity to work at the 2017 Essence Festival with the Human Rights Campaign, which is America’s largest civil rights organization working to provide LGBTQ people their basic rights to be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

Tamara has developed a reputation  as “Tap the Connector” amongst her social circle due to her ability to bridge the gap between individuals based on her conversations of getting to know and understand a person’s passion for what they do. After being well known for this ability, she has been inspired to develop a business venture to build a social platform for individuals who either don’t have access or the ability to connect with influencers for their network. “What good is a product if you don’t have the support behind it to help showcase it?”  Tamara has a plethora of gifts and she shares her gifts by adding energy to the spaces of those she encounters each and everyday.


  1. So with over 100 HBCU’s nationwide, You had the opportunity to give representation of each school once. Our young people at HBCU’s are making a difference in this world. Spread the love to all not to the same schools all the time. Howard & Spelman were given too many spots. I’d like to see more SWAC schools, Wiley College, Xavier…..the list goes on. Level the playing field for all of us, not just the chosen few. I support all HBCU’s.

  2. This is a great read! Every candidate deserves their recognition. However, there is no way you didn’t include Miss USA 2017 from South Carolina State University! She has to be top 30!

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