These stories are an impetus for us to help more deserving students achieve more goals and realize more dreams.

Students who attend HBCUs come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but many of their stories share a common narrative: success. While each college experience comes with its own set of challenges, we’ve found time and time again that our member HBCUs excel at retaining and graduating first-generation, low-income students. Their graduates’ stories are proof enough. HBCU grads are pioneers, advocates and humanitarians—and we couldn’t be more proud.

Gene Morris

Gene, an Allen University grad, was selected to be part of the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps in 2018. As part of this six-month initiative created to train leaders and address civic issues in its host cities, Gene helped young leaders learn to spark positive change in the communities they call home. Using his HBCU experience, Gene set the ball rolling on a pattern of mentorship and service that could continue indefinitely—a pattern of bringing up future leaders who can further transform the world for the better.

Shavondria Jackson

If you’re looking for proof of the impact an HBCU education can make, look no further than Shavondria’s story. At the beginning of her journey, things were looking bleak. Shavondria encountered financial struggles from a young age and even faced homelessness, making the idea of going to college seem all but impossible. Thanks to a UNCF scholarship, she was able to attend Xavier University, one of our member HBCUs. And she certainly didn’t waste the opportunity. Shavondria graduated as a Fulbright Scholar and attended the UNCF New Orleans’ 2016 Mayor’s Masked Ball as a guest of honor, where she shared her personal testimony about the life-changing difference a scholarship can make.

Kayla Freeman

Kayla’s achievements have been—literally—out of this world. Thanks to a degree in aerospace science engineering from Tuskegee University, Kayla became an aerospace engineer for the United States Army and, last year, earned the title of first black female pilot in the Alabama National Guard.

“I didn’t think about making history when I started this journey,” Kayla said. “I just wanted to do the best that I could do and hopefully inspire a few people along the way.”

Ciara May

During the senior year of college, a student should be worrying about next steps such as finding a career or pursuing further education—not worrying that they can’t afford tuition for their last semester. Unfortunately, such was the case for Ciara, until UNCF and MUFG Union Bank teamed up to help.

“I woke up on the first day of spring classes to an e-mail saying I had been awarded exactly the amount I was short,” she said. “It brought me to tears.”

Ciara graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2018 with a master’s degree. She is now a Venture for America Fellow.

At UNCF, these stories are an impetus for us to help more deserving students achieve more goals and realize more dreams. Despite all these successes, however, we can still only help one in 10 HBCU students applying for financial assistance. That’s why the support of donors who believe that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste but a wonderful thing to invest in,”® is so crucial. Consider giving today—you could change a life!