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Black Student Organizations celebrate accomplishments

From left, presenter Jenelle Lewis '12; Shalena Heard '13G, winner of the Graduate Student Award; and organizers Niomi Sterling '14, and LeVaughn Nesbitt '13.

For Lehigh students, the end of the spring semester is jam-packed with exams, final projects, presentations—and awards banquets. But this spring, a group of student organizations, buoyed by the support of committed faculty and staff members, came together to honor accomplishments in a way that has never been done at the university.

The Lehigh University Cohort of Black Student Organizations, comprised of seven groups, coordinated the first Strive For Excellence banquet to celebrate their accomplishments. Eleven individual awards were presented in an event that attracted students, faculty, staff and alumni from a wide cross section of campus.

LeVaughn Nesbitt ’13, chair of the banquet’s planning committee, says the student leaders who planned the banquet had previously helped organize the Black History Month Kick-off Celebration in February.

While undergraduates played a major role in planning the event, Nesbitt says, they were assisted by Tyrone Russell, director of multicultural affairs; Ayanna Wilcher ’10G, assistant director of diversity and career development in career services; Veronica Hunter, director of student-athlete academic services; and other staff members.

“Our advisers were key because they put on big events like this all the time, so they saw things that we may not have thought of. Some small details could’ve been missed in the process,” says Nesbitt, who also serves as the president of the National Association of Black Accountants chapter at Lehigh. “We absolutely needed the faculty and staff guidance.”

The importance of cultural identity and diversity

Sponsorship in excess of $12,000 made the event possible—the planning committee set different sponsorship levels for offices and corporations who wished to contribute. To the students, the money raised spoke volumes about the level of commitment to promoting diversity from corporate partners. To this end, KPMG donated four $250 book scholarships to students at the banquet.

Says Nesbitt: “KPMG was the diamond sponsor of this event; we had numerous sponsors, but they came in at the highest level because they really believed in our vision from the beginning. They were there asking, ‘What can we do to make this event successful?’ And they followed through.”

Honeyrock Ingram, a diversity recruiter at KPMG, delivered the evening’s keynote address. She spoke at length about the importance of cultural identity and diversity, and encouraged students to continue to achieve and persevere through adversity.

“It means a lot for me personally to be a part of this, just the amount of love and support and mentorship I saw in a room full of young black people,” Ingram says. “You don’t often see that reinforced in public media, and when you can come into a room and be a part of that, it’s the best and most encouraging thing to witness.”

Alison Morrow ’13, winner of the banquet’s flagship Strive For Excellence Award for all-around achievement, agreed. To her, the evening represents a launching point for even more successful events in the future.

“I see this being the event of the school year,” says Morrow, an Africana Studies major. “We showed all of our peers and all the other organizations on campus what we can do.”

The Lehigh University Cohort of Black Student Organizations includes: African Caribbean Culture Club (ACCC); Black Student Union (BSU); Omicron Kappa Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.; National Association of Black Accountants (NABA); National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE); Omega Xi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.; Participation Academics and Campus Life (PAC).

Story by Karl Brisseaux '11

Posted on Friday, May 11, 2012

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