Black History Month Pay It Forward Challenge: Recognizing students making a difference

In honor of Black History Month, Google hosted a Pay It Forward Challenge to recognize Black student leaders who are advancing opportunities for their local communities. After receiving so many submissions we’re excited to share the work of the students below and hope you’ll be inspired by their stories. Stay tuned for more features over the next few weeks!

Blessing Adogame

Blessing is the co-founder of the Students of LinkedIn movement at Drexel University. This campaign started as a hashtag, and “ bloomed into a global community of students who encourage each other to find their voice, expose the limitless opportunities that they can find/create, and educate each other on the importance of personal branding as college students.”

"I wanted to create this community, because there is power in lifting others as we climb. Through my posts, I have been able to serve as an example of how a college student can provide value to industry professionals around the world and have garnered an audience of more than 5,000 students. Students of LinkedIn equips students with resources such as monthly webinars and organic video content that teaches how to connect with professionals and land/create that dream job.”

Blessing’s advice to others:
“Find joy in learning from your mistakes, knowing that it leads to growth. There is power in starting, failing at something, and learning from it."

 What inspires Blessing about Black History Month:
“As a community, it’s important to celebrate the sacrifices that our ancestors made. Sacrifices, that have enabled us to be able to do what we do/want to do with our lives. It’s important to be gracious towards those have made sacrifices for us - those from the past and those from the present. Growth equals success. As a community, we need to continue to grow and strengthen as we display black excellence and unity."

Natsai Ndebele

Natsai is currently a student at Georgia State University. She is the co-founder of Our Journey Through Code and a mentor with organizations such as Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code.  Natsai started her non-profit, Journey Through Code with a purpose of, “increasing diversity in technology, especially for women and underrepresented minorities."

“By highlighting the many faces in technology, I hope to inspire more minorities to enter the tech world, break stereotypes and biases, and build a community for us with mentors while creating inclusion.”

Natsai’s advice to others:
“The best time to start is now. You don't have to wait to get a team or gain resources or recognition, just do it. When I started, I didn't have much but I had knowledge that could be passed on. So I volunteered with organizations with missions aligned to my cause, and I reached out to people to hold events, panels, or workshops to teach girls how to code.”

 What inspires Natsai about Black History Month:
“I'm really excited to celebrate being black, and highlight all the people that have contributed to the black community. There is still so much that we need to work on as a community, and so many challenges we still face, and I want this focus on building on our community to last beyond a month or just a hashtag.”

Alysa Miller

Alysa is currently pursuing her Doctoral degree in Psychology from the University of Chicago after recieving her Master’s in Public Health from New York University. Alysa has always had a passion for finding ways to improve health within underrepresented communities, including in her hometown of Detroit, MI. 

"Through these educational and professional experiences I have had the opportunity to engage in a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to learning about contributing to social change and promoting health equity. Specifically, my passion for food and improving the world’s diet, particularly in minority communities, has influenced my interest in learning the different approaches communities take toward food policy, food culture, and health disparities.

As I have made advancements on my career path, I have noticed the scarcity in strong female, minority, role models in the health sciences fields. Because of my experiences as a woman of color, I feel it is my duty to serve as a scholarly role model for future minority scholars in the health sciences field”

Alysa’s advice to others:
“Wise words I strive to live by are, 'make data driven decisions.' I would tell that person to do their share of research to make their dream a reality through decisions driven by data. Numbers carry weight and having others to bounce ideas off of and stimulate meaningful conversation goes a long way. Also when collaborating, engage the community. Educate and empower them, and strive for sustainability."

 What inspires Alysa about Black History Month:
“In our current political climate, it’s especially crucial for young minorities to see minorities old and young making impactful change and positive social contributions. The internet and mainstream media have allowed all sorts of messages to come into our daily lives, and many of us over time become desensitized to the negativity and hatred spanning our world. Utilizing a platform as influential as Google to acknowledge, promote, and encourage commitment to community serves as a reminder of what Black History Month (and those who fought for equality) embodies – particularly at a time when diversity and inclusion are needed most.”

Rayna Dunham
Rayna is both a student and a teacher. She is a high school biology teacher and a member of the Greater New England Alliance of Black School Educators while she simultaneously attends Central Connecticut State University. On top of that she volunteers at the Legacy Foundation of Hartford, a local food pantry.

“Upon completing an internship as a public health educator at the age of nineteen, I made the decision to become a high school biology teacher in an urban setting. I specifically wanted to work in an urban setting to serve as a role model for my students impacted by the vision gap disallowing them the privilege of being educated by a black teacher in a core subject area. I quickly learned that being a black teacher is more than just teaching the curriculum. I dedicate myself to each scholar’s academic success by being present every week and instilling a love of science into every potential doctor and engineer I teach.”

Rayna’s advice to others:
“Become a member of an existing organization that aligns with your goals and devote your time to improving it or expanding it with your resources. The most valuable gift you can give someone is your time.”

What inspires Rayna about Black History Month:
“I will use my postgraduate education to create generational change by disseminating my research in the community at large and investing in future teachers. Black History Month makes me reflect on the current realities of the world and inspires me to combat them in my classroom by teaching and furthering my own education. I will be the change this world needs by any means necessary."

Saba Tshibaka
Saba is currently a student at the University of Maryland, College Park. On and off campus, Saba participates in multiple organizations. She is the founder of the Jeopardy! Club, a computer literacy tutor in BcauseIcan, part of the University of Maryland Black Student Union's Big/Little Mentoring Program, and an ambassador for the Academic Achievement Program.

“At the Jeopardy! Club meetings, we invite not only students, but staff, faculty, and most importantly neighborhood/community members. It brings me great joy to be the president of an organization whose mission statement is to, 'commemorate the wealth of ALL of our knowledge!'"

Saba’s advice to others:
“My advice to someone looking to make an impact in their local community is focus on what you're passionate about! I've been watching Jeopardy since I was 7 with my family, and one of my biggest dreams was to act like Alex Trebek in Jeopardy, and now I get to do that monthly in a group run by my closest friends! Anything is possible if you try your hardest and believe in your work. Having a positive mindset makes the biggest difference.”

 What inspires Saba about Black History Month:
“Something on my mind as we enter Black History month is how to better combat stereotypes against minority groups. So far I've just been trying to work as hard as I can to be the opposite of what people think I am. As a young black woman, I've gone to college, held countless jobs, and work to support my family as well as myself while staying hopeful."

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