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

In honor of Black History Month, Google hosts its annual Pay It Forward Challenge as a way to recognize individuals who are making a positive impact in their communities. The variety of submissions we received this year serves as a reminder that there are so many ways in which students can “pay it forward!” We’re excited to share the work of the students below, and hope that you feel inspired by the different ways in which students across the U.S. are expanding access and opportunities for their local communities!

Digital Initiatives
Individuals are increasingly moving to digital initiatives in order to make a positive impact and reach a large audience. Check out how these students are navigating the digital space in order to ignite change in their communities.

Tim Salau

Tim Salau is a current Master’s student in his final year at the University of Texas at Austin studying Information Studies. He is a former Google design intern and creator of the Mentors & Mentees community, an international community centered on career mentorship and personal development. They’ve held webinar and workshops around topics like leadership, how to effectively use LinkedIn, and networking!

Jehron Petty

Jehron Petty, a sophomore at Cornell University, is the co-creator of Minority Wealth Management, a YouTube series which seeks to raise awareness of wealth creation and preservation in the minority community through educational videos and social commentary.

Defining Your Community
There is no one correct definition of “community.” From Ghana to Mississippi, these students scaled their initiatives in order to impact the communities that they felt closest to.

Cynoc Bediako

Cynoc is sophomore at Cornell University studying Computer Science. He was born and raised in Ghana, and he has a passion to make Africa a better place through computer science and technology. As such, earlier this year he organized a hackathon in Kumasi Ghana called “Ghana Hacks.” The program sought to give science students a window into the world of computer science and its vast potential for development in this era of technology.

Aisha Saffold

Aisha Saffold is a native of Lexington, Mississippi, attending Jackson State University. She founded P.E.A.R.L.S. in order to empower young women in Holmes, Rankin, Hinds, Leflore, and the Grenada Counties in Mississippi (close to home). The P.E.A.R.L.S. Leadership Academy, Poise and Etiquette Training, and Get Fit with P.E.A.R.L.S. programs are all examples of ways in which Aisha seeks to mold young girls into role models and powerful women who achieve their own hopes and dreams.

University Initiatives
Busy college students can find ways to impact their local communities by engaging in initiatives with their universities.

Pearis Bellamy

Pearis Bellamy is a senior Psychology major and Leadership Studies minor at Hampton University. She founded the Black College Business Woman Connection as an effort to promote entrepreneurship and community among women. Participants leave the events not only informed and empowered, but with a tribe of women ready to support them!

Taylor Montgomery

Taylor Montgomery is a junior Physics major at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and only the second African-American young woman to be the Team Lead for the Fisk University Rocket Team. With the Rocket Team, Taylor volunteers to educate underrepresented minority students in the Nashville Metro Public Schools by engaging them in rocketry, robotics, and STEM activities.

Google Initiatives
There are several ways in which you can leverage Google’s programs and resources in order to positively impact your communities!

Koko Lawson

Koko Lawson is pursuing a MBA at Emporia State University. She is a Community Impact Lead for Google Fiber in Kansas City, Missouri, where she works to close the digital divide in the area by providing community organizations with tools and resources to improve the digital literacy of Kansas City.

Thanks to all of the amazing students who submitted entries to this year’s Pay it Forward Challenge! For even more inspiration of ways you can pay it forward, check out this year’s features below:
Taylor Mathis
Jordan Williams
Breonna July
Victor Hunt
Chanice Lee
Olamide Olowe and Rechelle Dennis
Diana Wilson
Kristopher Alford
Kirstyn McLeod and Lyndsay Hamilton
Noah Mcqueen
Amanda Lawson

Keep up with us on social (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, G+) to hear more about our initiatives!