FAMU places 3rd, awarded $10,000 in HBCU Challenge

FAMU students Shelby Avery (left), David Holmes and Jamel Booth pose with Tom Joyner after receiving a third-place award in the Ford HBCU Community Challenge on Thursday. The students won $10,000 in grant money to implement their project. (LaCrai Mitchell/The Famuan)

DEARBORN, Mich. — iPad minis were just a small part of the big award three Florida A&M students won on Thursday.

Shelby Avery, Jamel Booth, and David Holmes won $10,000 in grant money after placing third in this year’s Ford HBCU Community Challenge, a nationwide competition hosted by Ford Motor Co. and its Ford Fund.

Ford partnered with the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” and the ‘”Rickey Smiley Morning Show” to sponsor the contest, which included an all-expense-paid conference in Michigan for the finalists.

Avery, Booth and Holmes competed against students from other historically black colleges and universities to create an out-of-the-box service project that improves the quality of community life.

“I’m really proud of us for getting this far,” said Avery, a professional MBA candidate.

After qualifying as one of three finalists, the students representing FAMU presented their project proposal to top Ford executives and the “hardest working man in radio,” Tom Joyner, who is a long-time supporter of HBCUs.

For the past 16 years Joyner’s foundation has donated more than $65 million to the advancement of HBCUs. In addition to providing monetary contributions, Joyner said Ford challenges students to create change in the community.

“This is right up our mission to help students get scholarships and encourage students to do things that better our community,” Joyner said. “This is right in line with our vision to serve the African-American community.

This was the first year FAMU competed in the contest. Booth, a junior facilities management and theater performance student, said he’s glad he and his teammates had the opportunity to do so.

“A lot of students are discouraged when it comes to  [competing for] scholarships for large amounts of money, but you never know unless you try,” Booth said.

Jason Hughes, director of ad sales for Reach Media, worked with Uniworld and Ford to publicize the challenge on-air. Hughes said the challenge impacts the students by providing them with valuable networking opportunities.

“Millions of people heard about the program through the ‘Tom Joyner Morning Show’ and ‘Rickey Smiley Morning Show,’ ” Hughes said. “Being able to connect with the Ford executives, being able to connect with Tom Joyner, being able to connect with the folks from Reach Media, those connections are going to live beyond these couple days.”

The FAMU students joined teams of students from Spelman College and Bethune-Cookman University as finalists. Spelman won first place, and B-CU placed second. In addition to receiving scholarships and grants, the finalists also won personal iPads.

Despite the final results, Holmes, a freshman accounting student, said he will “definitely” participate in the challenge again — and not because he wants another iPad.

“I feel that it gave me a greater awareness of the things that are happening within Tallahassee,” Holmes said. “I’m very interested to see these aspects [of our project] implemented in my own community.”