Trivia is more than just a challenge of obscure facts. More than anything, it’s fun and engaging. And for 29 years, Honda has utilized trivia to engage students in an academic quiz competition for Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs).
For students at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., winners of this year’s Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC), the grant from Honda has a positive impact on their college experience.
HCASC, a friendly competition between student teams representing HBCUs from across the country, provides opportunities for students through the more than $9 million in grants Honda has awarded to schools over the years to provide scholarships, update campus facilities and enhance student programs.
“We use HCASC grant money to support our students any way we can,” said Joshua Cotton, team coach for Jackson State. “If a student needs business attire for an interview, we can tap into HCASC grant money to help raise that student’s potential for success.” And Cotton has a long history with HCASC. He participated as a student on Jackson State’s team for four years and is now coach of a championship team.
As a freshman at Jackson State, Cotton learned about HCASC from a flyer posted on campus. The $500 given to the school’s winning team intrigued him, so he convinced three other freshman to form a team.
But winning wouldn’t be easy. There are no divisions. Cotton’s team of college freshman would compete against all other teams. Even so, they won and the team split the $500. “I was surprised to win,” Cotton said. “But we didn’t focus on the other teams, we just focused on being the best we could be.”
Cotton took his $125 cut that year and bought books. And his inauguration into the HCASC family led to his continued involvement 15 years later. “As a 17-year-old freshman participant, being a part of HCASC opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “I gained new experiences, new friendships, and developed a close bond with my coach and mentor Kathy Patterson.”
Cotton attributes his college success to his former coach. After Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown, Cotton’s future at Jackson State was at risk. Tuition money just wasn’t available anymore.
But coach Patterson recognized Cotton’s need, and his potential. So, she tapped the HCASC fund and provided Cotton with a scholarship.
“If not for coach Patterson, I doubt I even would have graduated college,” he said. “This couldn’t have happened without Honda. Jackson State was able to use HCASC grant money at its discretion, which allows coaches to address immediate needs of students.”
Years later, when Cotton heard of coach Patterson’s retirement, he wasted no time in expressing his interest in the position. Now, in his 10th year as the HCASC coach at Jackson State, Cotton has built upon the school’s legacy, leading the team to its second championship earlier this year (first championship was in 1995).
“The entire community is extremely proud of the team,” said Cotton. “Two of our students are from right here in Jackson, Miss., former students of Jackson Public Schools (JPS).
“JPS is ranked near the bottom for public schools in Mississippi, yet two of its students went on to win a heralded academic quiz competition between HBCUs. That’s what HCASC is all about. Giving kids an opportunity to shine and show their abilities on a national stage.”
Not only has Cotton built upon the winning legacy, but he’s continued the support for students that is central to their success in the classroom, at HCASC competitions, and as professionals after graduation.
Like coach Patterson, Cotton taps in to the HCASC grant money to prepare his students for the future. Not just scholarships and interview attire, but also attending theatre performances—a new experience for some students. These tools, when combined with a college education, help provide an overall experience to improve a student’s chance of success.
“We have doctors, lawyers, all types of professionals who are proud to list HCASC on their resumes,” said Cotton. “We are honored to be a part of this program. It’s been a tremendous influence in my life. I know Honda believes in The Power of Dreams, and HCASC has allowed me and countless other HBCU students to dream. On behalf of the Jackson State community, thank you.”