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White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Recognizes Two Drake State Students

The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) recognized two Drake State Community and Technical College students today.

Makahla Riley and Eddie Tolbert were recognized for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, and civic engagement.

Riley and Tolbert are two of 102 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from 29 different states and countries who were included in the ninth cohort of HBCU scholars. Tolbert is majoring in Computer Information Systems, while Riley currently studies Business Administration.

“We are incredibly proud of Makahla Riley and Eddie Tolbert, two outstanding students from Drake State, for being recognized as part of the ninth cohort of HBCU scholars,” said Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims. “This prestigious recognition highlights their academic and personal achievements and contributions to their community. As they embark on this transformative journey as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on HBCUs and partners with NASA, we do not doubt that Makahla and Eddie will continue to uphold the culture of excellence and inclusion championed by our nation’s HBCUs. Their dedication to serving their communities, along with the opportunities presented through the HBCU Scholars program, will contribute to the growth of our economy and the strengthening of our democracy. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Makahla, Eddie, and all the 2023 HBCU Scholars on their well-deserved recognition, and we eagerly look forward to witnessing the positive impact they will make as they raise the bar for excellence and innovation.”

Over the course of an academic school year, HBCU Scholars will serve as ambassadors of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, the U.S. Department of Education, and their respective HBCUs.

Furthering the mission to Raise the Bar, students in this program are encouraged to lift their communities, unite others around student success, work to strengthen our democracy and grow our economy. HBCU Scholars will be offered professional and personal development and cross-university networking opportunities with an opportunity to explore, discuss, and improve issues related explicitly to the HBCU community.

“Our 2023 HBCU Scholars are talented students who embody the culture of excellence and inclusion championed by our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and everyone across the Biden-Harris Administration, I congratulate each of our 2023 HBCU scholars on this prestigious recognition and thank them for their commitment to serving their communities. I’m thrilled to see the HBCU Scholars program continue to expand its reach and provide such exciting professional development, networking, and educational opportunities to some of our nation’s brightest and most promising young leaders.”

A critical component of the HBCU Scholar Program is a partnership with NASA to foster innovation and opportunity for the cohorts. This partnership with NASA makes the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovation Tech Transfer Idea Competition (MITTIC), “Mini MITTIC” part of the HBCU Scholar Program. Through the Mini MITTIC program, HBCU Scholars will partner with one another to develop ideas to commercialize technology derived from NASA intellectual property that can improve their campus and surrounding communities. HBCU Scholars will have the opportunity to present their IP ideas in person at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, during the National HBCU Week Conference in September.

“NASA’s MUREP is thrilled, once again, to engage with the White House Initiative on HBCUs to enhance the learning experience for this year’s cohort of White House Scholars,” said MUREP manager Torry Johnson. “We are looking forward to the new ideas that the Scholars develop at the MITTIC Hack-a-thon using NASA’s technology portfolio and our continued overall support of the HBCU community.”

HBCU Scholars will also be invited to the 2023 HBCU Week National Annual Conference, which will be held on September 24-28, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virginia. This year’s conference themes are “Raising the Bar: Forging Excellence Through Innovation & Leadership.” During the conference, HBCU Scholars will participate in conference sessions designed to engage a spirit of innovation, leadership, and personal and professional development. Most importantly, HBCU Scholars will have opportunities to engage with one another, initiative staff, and partners to showcase their individual and collective talent further.

Drake State has increased opportunities for students through partnerships with HBCU initiatives in 2023. In May, the College was inducted into the prestigious Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which provides scholarship and professional opportunities for students. Earlier this month, Strada included Drake State in its HBCU Initiative, which provides students with scholarships, networking, and leadership development opportunities.

To learn more about Drake State and its programs, visit


Below is the complete listing of Alabama’s HBCU Scholars.

(Alpharetta) Taya Davis, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC

(Dothan) Jamal Maloney Jr., Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Lincoln University, PA

(Dothan) Ta’Kari Bryant, Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, AL

(Gadsden) Jessica Parker, Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden, AL

(Huntsville) Jaela Haynes Williams, Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, AL

(Madison) Makahla Riley, Drake State Community & Technical College, Huntsville, AL

(Montgomery) Matilda Perryman, Trenholm State Community College, Montgomery, AL

(Montgomery) Morgan Marshall, Alabama A&M University, Normal, AL

(Montgomery) Thaddeus Sneed, Trenholm State Community College, Montgomery, AL

(Pleasant Grove) Haley Heard, Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL

(Troy) Ch’Erykah Dunn, Paine College, August, GA

(Tuscaloosa) Chiamaka Okafor, Shelton State Community College, Tuscaloosa, AL

(Tuskegee) Eddie Tolbert, Drake State Community & Technical College, Huntsville, AL

(Tuskegee) Bruce Taylor, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL