The gift of opportunity can be the gift of a lifetime. For over 30 years, American Honda has sought to showcase top talent at HBCUs all over the country. Whether a student is into music, academic competitions, or creating new products, there is a chance for them to be more.

We sat down with Alexandra Warnier, Corporate Social Responsibility manager for American Honda, to highlight how enriching programs like this can be for everyone involved.

Q. How is Honda uplifting the Black community during the COVID-19 pandemic? In your opinion, what disparities in the educational system and for HBCUs, have been heightened by the impact of the virus?

A.  Honda’s North American response to the COVID-19 pandemic included support for the HBCU community, with specific focus on food insecurity and healthcare needs. It was part of a larger $1 million pledge that we made, toward COVID-19 relief efforts.

We had 58 HBCUs that participated in the [COVID-19] relief initiative. We used the funds that we had designated for the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC), which was canceled just prior in March actually. We decided to take those grant funds to empower students and HBCUs to make donations to organizations in their local communities. Honda provided a total of $325,000 in order to make those donations.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the overall HBCU funding disparity, and why it was so important to give that boost?

A. In terms of redirecting the funds, I think it was important for many reasons. First of all, we have a really strong relationship with the nation’s HBCUs. So we really wanted to support them, as well as the broader HBCU community during the pandemic. When we decided to cancel the [HCASC] event, it was really to keep the students and coaches safe. But we also wanted to support the students who work hard in preparing for the national tournament. It’s a year-round program and the students had been working on that. This was the culmination of all their work, and we knew there was an important need as well in terms of the community. 

We wanted to give them an opportunity to come up with a project that they could facilitate in their own community. We focused it around food insecurity and healthcare needs for families, but there were also senior citizens, homelessness, as well as medical supply projects that the participating HBCUs came up with in order to support their community during this time. 

Q. What was Honda’s first initiative towards supporting HBCUs? 

A. Our involvement with HBCUs started more than 30 years ago with the establishment of the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge.  The program is designed to showcase the academic gifts of HBCU students, and it goes back to the fact that education is a core pillar of our corporate social responsibility activity across the United States. Honda believes HBCUs play a unique and critical role in providing education as well as opportunity for advancement to the African American community. 

Q. Since you have Jess Agyepong here as well, Jess can you tell me how the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge has affected you as a Howard University senior and HCASC team captain?

A. My involvement with HCASC has had an extremely positive impact on my college career. Through this program, I have had the opportunity to sharpen my mind, connect with students from many different HBCUs, and build my leadership skills. HCASC is a unique mix of fun and learning, and I am grateful for the experiences it has given me.

Q. How has the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge and Honda Battle of the Bands showcased HBCU talent and benefitted participating schools over the years?

A. In terms of impact, it has touched the lives of 200,000 students. Through the two programs, we’ve awarded more than $12 million in grants in support of HBCU education programs and facilities improvements. We’ve also created a community of HBCU students, faculty members, and alumni that is built around these two programs. It really supports the students and HBCUs, as well as providing a unique experience. 

Q. How have Honda’s contributions to HBCUs impacted you personally?

A. For me, I’ve attended both the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge and Honda Battle of the Bands, and it’s been just amazing to see the community—everyone that’s there to support these HBCUs—which is absolutely fantastic. In terms of HCASC, it’s incredible to see the hard work that the students go through in order to prepare to be there, and to be one of the 48 schools competing for the national championship title. To be able to interact with them, hear about their dreams and support them, it’s a really important program. From my perspective, I’ve been really impressed with the students.

For Honda’s Battle of the Bands, it’s the hard work they go through to be so amazing when they hit the field. It’s an incredible thing to experience. 

Q. What scholarships does Honda fund for HBCU students?

A. In partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), Honda provides scholarships to support students pursuing an education in engineering, supply chain management and manufacturing-related fields. 

In addition to the financial support, scholarship recipients are invited to interview for internships and co-op positions at one of 12 U.S. facilities where Honda manufactures vehicles, engines, transmission, as well as aircraft, aircraft engines, power equipment and side-by-side and all-terrain vehicles.  

This summer, Honda is hosting eight co-ops from HBCUs. Even in this unusual era of social distancing, we aim to provide positive learning experiences for students and make them aware of the career opportunities at Honda.

Q. Discuss the impact of giving scholarships to HBCU students pursuing engineering, supply chain management and manufacturing-related careers through your partnership with the Thurgood Marshall Fund. We are also happy to hear about any other impacts this partnership has made.

A. Honda established the scholarship fund in 2018 to mark a major milestone in the company’s history–the production of its 25 millionth automobile in the United States–and invest in the next generation of engineers and manufacturing associates. Through our partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Honda is committed to strengthening opportunities for top students at HBCUs. We also hope that they’ll consider working at Honda in the future.

Q. What are some of the benefits of Honda being a member of the HBCU Partnership Challenge, an initiative by the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus? Or feel free to discuss the impact of this partnership. 

A. Honda has a long history of supporting HBCUs, recognizing the critical role the institutions play in our society. Our participation in the HBCU Caucus’ Partnership Challenge enables us to support Caucus members and like-minded companies to ensure a spotlight remains on these important institutions.

To learn more about how Honda’s initiatives have helped communities like yours, please visit here.