Representatives from the Ford Motor Company Fund wheeled onto campus Wednesday to present Jackson State University with $20,000 that its alumni won on a cruise, and the presentation allowed Ford to drive home the message that it supports the academic success of business and STEM students.
The financial award by the fund, a philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, continues the organization’s longtime tradition of civic outreach to institutions worldwide with investments of tens of millions of dollars. At JSU, the fund will provide $2,000 each to 10 sophomores and juniors in the JSU College of Business and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. The monetary boost will assist students with such expenses as tuition and books.
JSU nabbed the prize during the HBCU cruise earlier this year that was jointly sponsored by the Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage and the Ford Fund.
While traveling the seas, HBCUs competed against one another in a “community challenge” for the most number of votes cast in seven days. Representatives and supporters of colleges and universities voted daily using iPads provided by Ford. In the end, Jackson State steamrolled to victory.
Dr. Evelyn J. Leggette, JSU’s provost and senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, described the gift as “an important day for us.” Touting JSU’s rich heritage, strong tradition and ever-present commitment to producing outstanding alumni, she said the $20,000 gift would allow “our students to focus on achieving academic excellence and graduate from Thee Jackson State University.”
Pamela Alexander, director of Community Development for the Ford Motor Company Fund, echoed those sentiments.
“It’s very important to get into college, but it’s more important to graduate,” she said. “We have a specific focus on African-American communities, where we’ve invested a quarter of a billion dollars over the past several years.”
Alexander said she was impressed by JSU’s vigor. “The university has some of the strongest alums out there, and it’s based on personal experience.” She cited the intense effort by alumni during the cruise contest that helped the university net the grand prize on the Fantastic Voyage. “Jackson State University had a team and a plan.”
Alexander met with a number of JSU’s students, describing them as “ridiculously impressive … and a talented group who wants to make a difference in the world.”
Kyren Garel, a junior business administration major from Grand Rapids, Mich., said he was delighted to see a major organization giving support to JSU.
“It’s very tremendous for an organization, business or company to not only recognize a need for students who want to further their dreams … but to actually do something about it. … This funding helps to remove roadblocks that prevent students from doing what they really want to accomplish.”
Angela Polk, program manager for the Ford fund, said the JSU-Ford partnership means that “we as a company are able to support students – and especially at Jackson State University.” She said students may ultimately consider Ford as a potential next step to starting their careers.
Additionally, she said, “This is an opportunity to support them no matter where they land.” She said the future bodes well for JSU and Ford. “You can expect that the gift today – sponsorships and scholarships – is the potential beginning of a larger partnership.”
Hanna Kemaw, an Ethiopian native and junior civil engineering student, said Ford’s gift would make her college experience much easier.
“Students like me actually need help. … Some of us get scholarships, but they may not cover everything such as books. Because of this limitation, I have to cover the other expenses on my own,” said Kemaw, who wants to be a structural engineer. “It’s not just me, but many other students are in need who have a good GPA and work ethic. This means a lot to me as a student from another country.”
After the check presentation, representatives from the Ford fund and the organization’s marketing firm Timeless viewed a video of JSU highlights, toured the campus and shot footage of campus highlights that will be included in a company video about Ford’s many community programs.