Introducing the Second Cohort of Northwestern Mutual’s Hometown HBCU Connection Scholars

Jun 12, 2024 8:45 AM ET
Collage of student faces

With graduation season still in full swing, high school seniors across the country are gearing up to start their next chapter. Yet in our hometown of Milwaukee, only 9 percent of students will earn both high school and college diplomas,1 and only 14 percent of high school graduates will earn a two- or four-year degree.2 We want to see those numbers improve.

Nine students have been newly selected for the Northwestern Mutual Hometown HBCU Connection Scholarship award. Now in its second year, the scholarship is part of our pledge to invest more than $500,000 in scholarships over the next five years for scholars attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—aiding a total of 36 students. A combination of financial support alongside mentorship and cohort-building, as well as paid intern and job opportunities, helps address the major pain points that prevent Black students from pursuing or maintaining college enrollment.

The recipients were selected based on academic performance, demonstrated leadership, participation in school and community activities, work experience, and a statement of career and educational goals. And when asked why an HBCU, many expressed their decision as being rooted in a desire to learn more about themselves by being surrounded by a community of driven individuals. They also have hopes of returning to their hometown post-graduation and offering unique perspectives based on their experiences to those they live and work with.

Presenting our class of 2024:

  • Tamera Hughes chose Fayetteville State University not only for its business administration program but also because it felt “more homey.” A jewelry maker with a mindset to serve others, Tamera is excited that the Hometown HBCU Connection Scholarship can help students in Milwaukee, like herself, attain new experiences and build connections for future opportunities with Northwestern Mutual.
  • Tamia Hughes finds comfort in knowing that her twin sister will be experiencing all the changes right alongside her on campus at Fayetteville State University as she pursues nursing. Tamia feels that her life reflects resilience, starting from the moment she and her twin were born prematurely. She says she’s an example of what can happen when you dream big, work hard and utilize the resources around you.
  • Jada Hughes looks forward to being around people that look like her with the same passion and drive to be successful. Majoring in psychology at Morgan State University, her interest in the field sparked from witnessing the various mental health struggles of those around her. While she’ll miss her coveted job at the Incredi-Roll skating rink, she is excited to meet new people and strengthen her interpersonal skills.
  • Taylor Harris first learned of Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical College through her track coach, who is a proud alum. A lover of true crime shows, she chose to major in criminal justice. As the founder of her school’s Black Student Union, Taylor chose an HBCU to learn more about the experiences of African Americans outside Wisconsin and the rich history and traditions that an HBCU can offer.
  • Zion Thomas is pursuing civil engineering so that he can return to low-income communities and fix infrastructures: “I want to give back to the city I came from.” When he found out that North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University graduates the highest number of Black engineering students in the nation, his bags were already mentally packed. Zion says it has been his goal since childhood to attend an HBCU, and scholarships like this fill in the funding gaps that often deter Black and Brown students from spreading their wings outside Wisconsin.
  • For Karrington Parrish, attending an HBCU was less if and more when. With both her parents graduating from HBCUs and her older brother currently attending one, she’s excited to continue the tradition by majoring in health science this fall at Spelman College. She says she loves her city but felt an immediate sense of belonging during her visit to Spelman. Karrington hopes that her story of being first deferred from her top choice and then being accepted later can inspire someone with the belief that a dream deferred is not denied.
  • Loren Muwonge chose Spelman College because she wanted to be in an environment where she could explore more of the “untaught herstory/history of our culture and how it’s contributed to the modern-day world.” Majoring in political science, she hopes to use both arts and advocacy to empower communities that are systematically oppressed. While Loren looks forward to experiencing the “Black Mecca” that is Atlanta, she says she’s equally excited for the opportunities this scholarship brings, such as internships and professional development.
  • Paishance Collins will miss Milwaukee’s unique music culture but is excited to learn more about the cultural identities of African Americans from the South and other parts of the country. Majoring in business at Fayetteville State University, she hopes to eventually create a nonprofit in Milwaukee geared toward financial literacy for people in her community.
  • Ilstlo Beiersdorf Jr.’s love for video games is the reason he’s choosing to major in computer science at Morehouse College. He’s looking forward to the increased rigor of classes and his knowledge being pushed to a different level. As a first-generation college student, Ilstlo says the Hometown HBCU Connection Scholarship is “helping me achieve my dreams.”

We are committed to serving those in the community we call home. We’re proud to support students and the future leaders of our community in pursuing their dreams. Learn more about how we invest in our communities here.