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Najma Calhoun, a senior at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, is one of the many students who have benefited from UNCF.
Najma Calhoun, a senior at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, is one of the many students who have benefited from UNCF.

Empowering students for their futures

UNCF’s scholarships and Empower Me Tour have helped students prepare for college and their careers, thanks to support from Wells Fargo.

February 27, 2018

Thandi Moses has always had clear plans for her future. As a high school student in Rochester, New York, she knew she wanted to go to a historically black college or university. Now that she’s a student at an HBCU, she plans on attending an Ivy League law school after she earns her bachelor’s degree.

“I want to go to school with people who want to succeed,” Moses said. “It empowers you.”

Thandi Moses applied and was accepted to Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida, during UNCF’s Empower Me Tour in 2017.
Thandi Moses applied and was accepted to Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida, during UNCF’s Empower Me Tour in 2017.

But as a high school student, she wondered how she would adjust to college life and the curriculum, so she attended United Negro College Fund’s Empower Me Tour in Rochester, New York, in 2017 to find out more about college opportunities. There, she learned about Florida Memorial University — which she applied to and was accepted at during the event — Tuskegee University, and North Carolina A&T University, and she even received one of five $5,000 scholarships from UNCF, the largest scholarship granting organization for students of color. Today, Moses is a freshman at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida, majoring in law and government with a minor in business administration.

With support from UNCF, Najma Calhoun, a senior at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, is working to complete her undergraduate studies. (2:20)

The Empower Me Tour travels to colleges and universities nationwide, providing free information about financial education, college and career readiness, college completion, and self-empowerment for high school students; college students, alumni, and administration; parents; educators; and the community. High school student participants have the opportunity to attend HBCU workshops with speakers, presenters, and recruiters, who typically offer acceptances and academic scholarships on the spot.

“There are three big things that students take away from the tour, starting with how to think of themselves and the set of experiences they have for a career,” said Larry Griffith, senior vice president for Programs and Student Services for UNCF. “Often, students aren’t able to associate their particular major with what might be out there for them in the world, so we help them think that through. The second thing we do is give them tools so that they can then take their knowledge, ready themselves for interviews, and make things pop on their resume. The third thing we do is give them a chance to practice. We put them in front of professionals who will look at their resumes and conduct mock interviews so they can receive feedback in a low-risk environment. The students come away thinking about what their opportunities are, are able to explore their opportunities, and put everything into practice.”

The Empower Me Tour was created in 2008 by founding sponsor Wells Fargo, and the company continues to provide financial support and volunteers. It provides $1 million each year for UNCF’s programs and scholarships, and Wells Fargo team members regularly volunteer at events like the Empower Me Tour, mentoring attendees, teaching financial capabilities, and serving on local UNCF boards. In 2017, 133 team members volunteered about 560 hours with UNCF.

Dewey Norwood, relationship manager for Wells Fargo’s Corporate Responsibility and Community Relations, said it’s important to provide students with guidance about college and their careers. “If you help them, they’re going to want to come back and help the next generation,” he said. “They are going to come back to their campuses. They are going to remember that person from Wells Fargo. They may not remember our names, but they are going to say, ‘hey I met somebody from Wells Fargo who helped me build my credit,’ or ‘I was on a Wells Fargo webinar, and they told me the importance of building good relationships.’ All of those pieces come to be a great reward long term.”

Even though she is just starting her college career, Moses already plans to come back and share her story with younger students. She hopes to inspire others to take advantage of the opportunities UNCF and the Empower Me Tour provide.

“The Empower Me Tour can help people realize what they actually want to do in life and provide you with what you need,” Moses said. “I would encourage all students to go to the Empower Me Tour, receive information, and put forth your best effort.”

Contributors: Jessica Pacek
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