Chester lifelong resident Ahn-Yea Graham has been selected a recipient of the White House 2014 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) All-Star Student Award. He is a graduating senior at Cheyney University. Graham says he is very honored by the selection.
“When I first found out I received the award, my heart literally skipped a beat,” said Graham. “Especially, once I found out that I was a part of the first class of HBCU All Star students under the White House Initiative on HBCUs as well as being the only student selected to represent Cheyney University.”
Along with the award comes the responsibility of Graham serving as an “ambassador” of the White House Initiative to HBCUs. Starting this month, he will be expected to help get the White House’s education message out until January 2015. Graham will participate in regional events and network with other scholars to showcase talented students across the HBCU community.
“As an ambassador, I will be responsible for leveraging my social media presence and community-based organization relationships to promote the value of education,” explained Graham.
HBCU ambassadors in the program serve as a voice for students at Blacks colleges and universities at the Department of Education and help shape policy and deploy resources to better serve HBCU students, faculty and families.
The HBCU initiative is part of a coalition of 32 federal agencies that support universities through federal grants and contracts.
Graham sees his appointment as a compliment to his career aspirations to pursue law degrees including a doctorate in law and a master’s degree in Business Administration at Villanova University School of Law to ultimately become a transactional attorney.
“In addition to this,” he said, “I intend on creating my own non-profit organization that will assist the youth of Chester in various aspects – life skills, professional development, financial literacy, etc.”
He also hopes that his life can serve as an example of what it means to rise above adversity to succeed. Growing up in Chester, Graham says he lost a few friends, but his family encouraged him to focus on his education, stay out of trouble and rise above it.
“As time progressed and I graduated from Chester High School in June 2010, I lost a few friends to gun violence and incarceration,” said Graham. “My older cousin, Stephen, would constantly tell me that I was going to go somewhere in life and do great things.”
Graham said pursing higher education has had its challenges at times, but he wants his peers to know it’s worth the rigor.
“For any young person pursuing higher education,” continued Graham, “I would tell them (President Barack Obama’s sentiment that) ‘Nothing that is worth anything, comes easy.’”