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Meet these 12 HBCU Grads Working in the White House

President Obama visits North Carolina A&T State University on Tuesday to discuss developments relating to My Brother's Keeper, an initiative designed to help young men of color overcome inequalities and to "reach their full potential." He is also expected to address the roles that Historically Black Colleges and University have played in achieving the same goal.

In honor of the President Obama's visit, we caught up with 12 White House staffers about their own experiences at HBCUs and some of their favorite memories with President Obama and the first family.


Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson speaks during the Association of U.S. Army Annual Meeting on October 5, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Allison Shelley / Getty Images

Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson

United States Secretary of Homeland Security

Morehouse College

Favorite recollection working with POTUS:

After over two years of referring to him as "Barack" throughout the campaign, it was going to a meeting at the White House in the spring of 2009 and saying, "hello Mr. President." That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Why did you choose an HBCU?

My parents were really the ones who steered me to Morehouse. It was the smartest choice they ever made for me. Morehouse was an inspiring and empowering experience, and made me who I am today.


Shirlethia V. Franklin (left) is the Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Attorney General, Department of Justice

Shirlethia V. Franklin, 34

Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Attorney General, Department of Justice

Tougaloo College (English) and Howard University School of Law

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Favorite memory working at the White House?

My favorite memory working in the Obama Administration is witnessing President Obama devote over four hours of his time to masterfully facilitate a tough, but honest, discussion about police-community relations in this country, in the wake of a string of painful tragedies this summer. I was in complete awe of not only the President's passion and personal commitment to this timely and gravely important issue, but also his uncanny gift of uniting differing voices and opinions for the collective goal of reaching shared solutions.

Why did you choose an HBCU?

I chose to attend two HBCUs, Tougaloo College and Howard University School of Law, for substantially similar reasons—namely, the rich history spanning a century and a half; the empowering tradition and culture of Black excellence; the high expectations of academic achievement; the nurturing environment in which I could thrive and soar; the unparalleled teachings of character, confidence, self-worth, identity, and community; and, most importantly, the humbling opportunity to build on the legacy of those whose shoulders upon which I stand.


Albert L. Sanders Courtesy of The White House

Albert L. Sanders, Jr., 35

Associate Counsel to the President, Office of the White House Counsel

Morehouse College, Political Science

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Favorite memory working at the White House?

Earlier this year, I was advising a client in the Situation Room. In mid-sentence, I looked up at the presidential seal and momentarily lost my train of thought. In that moment, I felt the gravity of our work and the extraordinary opportunity we have to serve.

What's the best tradition at your school?

Standing with other Morehouse Men, locking arms, and singing 'Dear Old Morehouse' fills you with a powerful sense of unity, purpose, and history. Whether it's at a reunion, homecoming, wedding or funeral, every time we sing our alma mater it's special. The song and the rituals associated with it are a reminder, in good times and bad, of the incredible brotherhood and great responsibility we share.


Jeron Smith, Deputy Director and Advisor for the Office of Digital Strategy Courtesy of The White House

Jeron Smith, 31

Deputy Director and Advisor Office of Digital Strategy

Howard University, Business Administration

My favorite memory working at the White House?

My favorite memory is undoubtedly traveling in the motorcade with the President to Howard University. Having the President deliver the commencement address at my alma mater, as an employee of the United States Government, really brought things full circle. On arriving to Howard University's yard at full capacity in anticipation for his arrival, and being able to contribute to the preparation of his visit, was beyond humbling.

Favorite part about going to an HBCU:

I attended UCLA for two years prior to transferring to Howard University. While I experienced an amazing education at that institution, what I gained from attending Howard was unmatched. Never in life had I been surrounded by so many individuals that looked like me achieving at such a high level. At Howard we defined that relentless pursuit of excellence as the "Howard Hustle," and it was infectious.


Stephanie Young, Senior Public Engagement Advisor Courtesy of The White House

Stephanie Young, 32

Senior Public Engagement Advisor, The Office of Public Engagement

Hampton University, Broadcast Journalism Major 2006

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, INC.

Gamma Theta Spring 2004

Favorite memory working at the White House?

One of my favorite memories was welcoming over 50 little black girls from the Washington area to the White House for workshops with icons in African American dance including Debbie Allen, Fatima Robinson, Virginia Johnson and Judith Jamison. We created a day just for them to learn from the greats and discuss self-esteem with the First Lady. Some of these girls would have never had this opportunity and it was an honor to create this moment for them. I will never forget the sound of African drummers and the sight of little African dancers in the State Dining room dancing under President Abraham Lincoln. I will also never forget their faces when they saw the First Lady watching their FINAL performance in the East Room as they danced their hearts out under the portraits of George and Martha Washington - it was such a powerful moment of proud for our people, the girls and our future.

I was so proud to be a part of the historic moment when President Obama gave the eulogy at Rev. Clementa Pinckney's funeral and called for the confederate flag to come down. This moment was especially powerful for me personally growing up in the South and being an AME. The President managed to turn a hate crime into a victory and moment of pride for who we are as a people. I could not have been prouder to be a part of that day.

Why did you choose an HBCU?

My parents gave me the choice to choose the school I wanted to go to but I wanted to go to an HBCU for as long as I can remember. I really wanted a school where people would invest in me, I would be nurtured, could be myself, learn more about my culture and grow into my blackness with confidence and grace.


Courtesy of the White House

Karen Evans, 28

Assistant Director and Policy Advisor, Office of Cabinet Affairs

Spelman College, Political Science

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc

Favorite memory working at the White House?

My favorite day at the White House was when I took the White House Mentor & Leadership participants (40 high school juniors and seniors from DC, Maryland and Virginia area public high schools), to join the President and First Lady in a service project at an elementary school in DC for the MLK Day of Service. It was amazing to see the students interact with the President and First Lady; hear the students tell their stories, ask questions and truly engage.

Describe your school in 3 hashtags?

#BlackGirlMagic

#SpelmanTaughtUs

#Choice2ChangetheWorld


Courtesy of the White House

Carl Young, 27

Assistant to the Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Morehouse College, Political Science

Favorite memory working at the White House?

Every day my office is in the weeds on policies that most Americans will never hear about. What sticks with me is the feeling of accomplishment when we finish a rule that moves the needle, such as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, The Clean Power Plan, or extending overtime to millions of Americans.

Describe your school in 3 hashtags?

#RenaissanceMen #BlackMaleAchievement #Brotherhood


Pete Souza / The White House

Glorie Chiza, 25

Associate Director of Public Engagement, Office of Public Engagement

Fort Valley State University, Political Science

Favorite memory working at the White House?

I will never forget the day I introduced my family to the President. Sharing that special moment with my family made every late night in the office worth it.

Why did you choose an HBCU?

Because HBCUs have a long and rich history of offering top-notch education to their students. I also wanted to graduate with a class that not only looked like me but also shared similar ambitions.


Courtesy of the White House

Quincy Brown, 42

Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Science and Technology Policy

North Carolina A&T State University, Electrical Engineering

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Favorite memory working at the White House?

My favorite memory working at the White House was walking my daughters and husband through the West Wing. Seeing pictures of the first family who looked like my family was powerful and inspiring.

Why did you choose an HBCU?

In high school I realized that I wanted to be an electrical engineer and learned that A&T had a phenomenal record of graduating black engineers. I loved being in an environment with supportive faculty and students who were focused being the best.


President Barack Obama greets HUD staff, including Melanie Roussell Newman, backstage at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2014. Pete Souza / The White House

Melanie Roussell Newman, 37

Director of Public Affairs, Department of Justice

Florida A&M University, Broadcast Journalism

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Favorite memory working at the White House?

I remember meeting President Obama in February 2009, on one of his first trips as President, flying back from Phoenix on Air Force One. He had just announced a housing recovery program that went on to help millions recover from the foreclosure crisis. Having worked on the 2008 campaign, it was so amazing to be present in that moment as he began to deliver on his promise to restore the economy weeks into his presidency.

What was the best tradition at your school?

The Rattler Charge: "When the dark clouds gather on the horizon...you must always remember the Rattlers will STRIKE, and STRIKE, and STRIKE AGAIN!"


Pete Souza / The White House

Ronnie Newman (married to Melanie Newman above), 37

Director for Human Rights and Refugee Protection, White House National Security Council

Morehouse College, Business Administration (Finance)

Favorite memory working at the White House?

My favorite memory of my White House tenure is a recent one - September 20, 2016, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations in New York - as the President addressed Heads of State, leaders of international organizations and NGOs, and others on the global refugee crisis. The President's Refugee Summit was a clear demonstration of the leadership he and his Administration have shown on the refugee issue (in spite of political headwinds), and for me personally, a culmination of the work I had done the past two and a half years at the White House.

Favorite Part of Attending Morehouse?

My favorite part of attending Morehouse was that perhaps for the first time in life I definitively felt like I was not pigeonholed. I looked around, and the smartest person in my circle was black, the most athletic person was black, the computer nerd was black, the class clown was black, the best dressed dude was black, the senior who had started a business on the side was black, the debate champion was black. In many ways, especially at that young age, I found the experience liberating. My environment had provided concrete evidence that I could be who I wanted to be; I just needed to decide.


Courtesy of Taylor Campbell

Taylor Campbell, 28

Director of Correspondence Systems Innovation, The White House

Howard University, Communications

Favorite memory working at the White House?

My favorite memory working at the White House was when I taught White House employees how to code! As part of the Office of Science and Technology Policy's CS4GOV (computer science for government) series, I co-led classes on the fundamentals of computer science and coding with JavaScript, alongside the U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Alex Macgillivray. I'm a woman, I'm black, AND I'm a self-taught techie, so I'm as minority as it gets in the STEM field -- and being able to inspire others and share my expertise on that level was truly an honor.

Describe your school in 3 hashtags?

#Legacy #IMSOGLAD #BlackExcellence


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