Oluwatoyosi F., a senior at Thomas Edison Technical High School in Jamaica, has been announced as one of two winners of a national Black History Month challenge that helps middle and high school students across the United States. United to understand the Black experience through perspectives, successes and struggles.
The month-long challenge, created by social impact education innovator EVERFI in partnership with Citizens Financial Group, includes four digital lessons and an essay contest in which students share a plan to keep a conversation going for life. year on black history in their community.
Eleven winners from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, New York and one national winner each received a $2,500 scholarship and a brand new Apple MacBook Pro, courtesy of Citizens Pay.
Oluwatoyosi, 18, said she will use the MacBook Pro and the scholarship money for her college education, as she is due to graduate in two months and will attend Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. She plans to major in public health studies and one day become a doctor.
For Oluwatoyosi and her parents, who immigrated to the United States from Nigeria six years ago, this is a huge accomplishment.
“Being a low-income first-generation student, it really meant a lot to me and my parents, because it’s an extra burden taken away from them and mine,” Oluwatoyosi said. “Winning this challenge gave me confidence and it really made my parents happy when I told them about it.”
The Black History Month Challenge ran from February 1-28. The challenge featured four digital lessons and an essay contest, open to all students aged 13-18.
Designed to inspire today’s students by telling stories about the Black experience in America, the Black History Month challenge empowers young people to tell Black stories across generations, elevates the History as a lens to understand current events and transforms students’ perception of the world around them, according to Sabina Chandiramani, Senior Director of Corporate Client Services at EVERFI.
The challenge is built around material from EVERFI’s 306: Continuing the Story – Black History Curriculum, which is an expansion of the company’s original 306: African American History course that launched in 2013. Students explored historical and current events and learned about the many “firsts” black leaders have accomplished in business and medicine while featuring black professionals who have paved the way and made significant contributions to their respective sectors.
“We are proud of all the students who participated in the challenge across the country and took the time to submit an essay about what the challenge meant to them,” Chandiramani said.
The subject of Oluwatoyosi’s essay was about coming up with a project to keep the conversation about black history going year round. As a black woman growing up in America, her main focus was representation. In her essay, she noted that black history should be a required course for high school students.
“Black history is American history. We tend to be a little suspicious of it, especially in high schools and colleges that aren’t majority black. They don’t really teach us black history and that makes me feel like I’m being snubbed and unappreciated,” Oluwatoyosi said. “Right now most students only recognize slavery as a black story, when there are more for us – the culture, arts and fashion that we don’t talk about in high school.”
She also talked about creating a talent acquisition and development program alongside a community organization for young adults aged 12-21 who don’t have access to the resources needed to advance their careers. . The program would focus on young black teens with a developed interest in the arts, such as poetry, dance, and arts and crafts.
“As co-founder and vice-president of my school’s Black Student Union (BSU), I work to ensure that my fellow black students belong to a supportive community. I am currently collaborating with my school administration to plan panel discussions, workshops, and an annual class project that will be assigned in history classes to raise awareness of black history. These events will take place throughout the school year and will be organized in a way that children will be excited to learn about black history,” Oluwatoyosi said in her essay.
Maura FitzGibbon, Customer Marketing Manager at EVERFI, said she was blown away by the community involvement and the impact the course has had on students’ lives.
“We were really proud to be able to offer this opportunity to students at no cost,” said FitzGibbon.
Nuno Dos Santos, Director of Retail Banking, SVP of Tri State Metro, Citizens, said they were honored to partner with EVERFI and sponsor the Black History Month Challenge. In addition to supporting the Black History Month Challenge, Citizens is working with EVERFI to help schools and teachers equip students with knowledge about financial empowerment, higher education funding, digital banking security, and literacy. early to help them succeed in and out of the classroom.
“When we opened our branches in New York in February, we were committed to supporting our neighborhoods – and these talented, thoughtful students reflect the best of our communities. They bode well for the future of New York,” Santos said.