Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Participate in Panel Discussion at Claflin University

Sep 21, 2022

Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Claflin University Tuesday for a panel discussion with nine outstanding scholars on topics that included voter registration, mental health, and entrepreneurship. Harris's visit coincided with National Voter Registration Day and HBCU (Historically Black Colleges/Universities) Week.

"Today we are celebrating National Voter Registration Day, "Harris said. "When I think about that and the last big election we had in 2020, I am happy to report that over half of the people in our country who were 18 – 21 years of age voted. "These young voters told us what they wanted."

Harris mentioned several significant concerns of college-age voters – and how they were addressed by President Joe Biden and his administration. At the top of the list were student debt and making college more affordable.

"The president just signed an order that students will have $10,000 of their student loan debt relieved," Harris said. "And if they are Pell Grant recipients, it can be $20,000."

The focus on student debt and college affordability continued when Harris said younger voters also wanted to know what was being done about the Pell Grant.

"Students receiving Pell Grants said they need more benefits, so they don't have to struggle to pay rent, buy books, food, and school supplies," Harris said. "So, we increased Pell Grants $400 per student/per year. We intend to double that in the coming year."

Harris also mentioned the Biden Administration's historic $370 billion investment in Climate Change, another priority of younger voters.

"Climate change is real," she said. "Leaders from years before probably sold us short in terms of taking it seriously. We want leadership to accelerate the resources we need to save the planet."

Before the closed panel discussion, three Claflin scholars made brief remarks about their experiences as entrepreneurs. Greg Westbrook, a graduate student from Memphis, Tenn., launched his clothing brand, Underrated Stylz,' four months ago. Westbrook is pursuing a master's degree in business.

"My clothing is for those who have experienced being underrated but with a twist," Westbrook said.  "It allows them to embrace being underrated, but with their style, so they know that regardless of what life throws and what others say, anything is possible and that you are more than capable of what you give yourself credit for."

Arteria Gibson, a senior mass communications major with a concentration in public relations, is from Columbia, S.C. She currently serves as Miss Claflin for the 2022-23 academic year. Gibson started Mindful Mondays at the start of the 2022 Fall semester to promote physical and mental health to the campus community.

"Mindful Monday's is a forum for students to discuss mental health topics and societal and worldly issues," said Gibson. "As we continue to recover and recalibrate from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more vital to bring attention to our community's physical, mental, and social well-being, especially those of students."

Daaiyah Fogle, a senior mass communications major from Greenville, S.C., is the founder of Day's Design, a boutique creative marketing agency that helps small businesses improve their messaging and branding through custom strategy, graphic design, branding, social media management, and content creation.

"I started my business to make some extra pocket change," Fogle said. "But eventually, my hobby for graphic design transformed into an outlet where I get to help fellow small businesses like my own. Earlier this year, I was selected as a 2022 Black Girl Ventures x NBA Foundation Next Gen Scholar along with 24 other HBCU students. Through this opportunity- I participated in an eight-week business accelerator program that focused on creating access to capital, training, mentoring, and new networks for HBCU student entrepreneurs.

After the program, I was selected as a top 7 scholar. I competed in a business pitch competition where I won first place and over $18k in capital investment for my small business. Being a part of this program helped me find ways to navigate and overcome the challenges that come with starting and maintaining a business as a young entrepreneur."

Secretary Cardona spoke with the nine Claflin panelists prior to the roundtable discussion. He viewed the visit to Claflin and his conversations with the students as opportunities to hear the insights and perspectives of young leaders.

The other panelists were: Dejane Lawrence, a senior, mass communications major from Sicklerville, N.J.; Emanuel Robertson, a junior education major from Sumter, S.C.;

Korriana Watt, a junior psychology major from Anderson, S.C.; Jabez Robinson, a junior business administration major from Aiken, S.C.; Nailah Outing, a sophomore environmental science major from Hopkins, S.C., and Josten Bryant, a senior computer science major from Moncks Corner, S.C.

"HBCUs have always punched above their weight," Cardona said. "This is an opportunity for us to listen. Who better than you (students) to give us feedback on how to continue to improve -- especially around issues of mental health support? What we think might be needed and what students are experiencing -- may differ.”

Both Harris and Cardona were greatly impressed by the scholars' presentations.

"You are our future, and when I look at you -- I know our future is bright," Harris said.

"When I hear about your plans for the future, it's exciting," Cardona said. "You are prepared to represent not only this (Claflin) university -- but also HBCUs and higher education."








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