Many incoming freshman set their sights on ambitious goals when they come to Fort Valley State University. For Randall Barnes of Macon, Georgia, who entered FVSU in the fall of 2015, those goals included becoming a White House Historically Black College and University (HBCU) All-Star. After he met an FVSU student who grew from the experience, Barnes set his sights on following suit. This year, he reached his goal, traveling to Washington, D.C. in September to participate with students from other HBCUs in the kick-off summit hosted by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
White House HBCU All-Stars are appointed for one year to serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. The All-Stars reach out to fellow students to promote the value of education and build awareness of the initiative as a networking resource. Being chosen as an ambassador is a recognition of the scholarship, leadership, and civic engagement accomplishments of the undergraduate, graduate, and professional students selected for the honor.
One of the highlights of the trip in Washington D.C. for Barnes was visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was something he never thought he would do as a college student.
“It was transforming,” Barnes said. “It gave me more focus on what I want to be. I saw black culture. I saw hip hop represented. I saw different writers like James Baldwin. I said that I want to be here [one day] and know that I have the opportunity to make an impact on black America.”
Barnes said the museum made him more than ever want to be servant leader, to help not only students at Fort Valley State, but those around him as well. During his visit he also met the 20th U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams and was able to view several well-known areas such as the Red Room and the Rose Garden.
In anticipation of his selection as an All-Star, Barnes became involved in all FVSU had to offer, especially within his major, media studies with a concentration in broadcasting. He also became involved in student government and became a more visible student leader. Barnes’ initiative includes assisting with Fort Valley State’s iHelp Center and FVSU’s Center for Retention Services to offer a mentoring program to incoming students.
Becoming an HBCU All-Star requires more than inspiration and desire, however. The students are selected from a wide-range of applicants and are highly recommended from administrators. They have proven to be impressive beyond their résumés, transcripts and applications. Only six students were chosen from Georgia representing private and public HBCUs.
Barnes believes that his “razor-sharp” focus led him to our nation’s capital. In his required essay, he addressed his role in expanding communication about various activities and issues to numerous audiences including students, faculty and staff and the world outside of FVSU.
Meeting executives from national television networks was one of Barnes’s most surprising experiences. He is an avid promoter and can be often seen on the sidelines during FVSU events. He welcomed being part of a packed agenda of events, including fireside chats with BET and Aspire TV executives who discussed the importance of branding.
Though the group serve as ambassadors for the White House, HBCU All-Stars are bipartisan positions. During their year-long post, they cannot be political. Students are expected to strictly use their positions to spread news about programs to their fellow students and use their power and platform to effectively communicate change. Barnes said already he’s received news of programs and internships and is eagerly sharing them with faculty and students.
Visit White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities for more details on the application process and becoming a 2018 HBCU All-Star.
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