Atlanta Gas Light Foundation Supports VSU’s African American Male Initiative
VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University has partnered with the Atlanta Gas Light Foundation to help encourage more African American males to pursue higher education and earn a college degree.
The Atlanta Gas Light Foundation presented a $12,500 check to the university Tuesday morning. Those funds will support scholarship opportunities for students in VSU’s African American Male Initiative, a program designed to increase retention, progression, and graduation rates among African American males at VSU.
“At VSU we are committed to offering a model of education that focuses on individualized mentorship and support, which inspires our students to write a success story that is all their own,” said Dr. Richard Carvajal, president of VSU. “This partnership with the Atlanta Gas Light Foundation will enhance our ongoing efforts to encourage and empower our African American male students. It will remove financial barriers that often prevent students from maximizing their college experience, and it will nurture a new generation of powerful, positive leaders. These VSU graduates will be ready to make an impact in Georgia and beyond.”
Braylen Taylor of Tifton, Georgia, joined the African American Male Initiative as a student at VSU. He said the scholarship support he received allowed him to be more selective about how he spent his time outside of class and opened doors to experiential learning, community service, and civic engagement opportunities.
VSU’s African Male Initiative is part of a statewide effort designed to increase the number of African American males who complete their postsecondary education at any University System of Georgia institution of higher education. Its mission is to provide an integrated program model of academic and social tools that support students around adopting a positive mindset to successfully complete classes, elevate their cumulative grade point averages, matriculate through each academic level, and graduate.
“Racial equity at Atlanta Gas Light enhances our ability to deliver superior results for our customers and employees, alike,” said Pedro Cherry, president and chief executive officer of Atlanta Gas Light. “By supporting programs like VSU’s African American Male Initiative, we are able to help extend that benefit to our entire community. Earlier this year, we joined with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to help launch the ATL Action for Racial Equity initiative, committing to take measurable actions to address immobility and inequity. This donation is one way in which we are fulfilling that promise.”
“The African American Male Initiative does important work empowering, supporting, and assisting young men throughout their academic careers, setting them up for long-term success,” said Lindsay Hill, vice president of human resources at Southern Company Gas, the parent company of Atlanta Gas Light. “Our workforce at Atlanta Gas Light is growing, and we are committed to working with programs like this one to ensure we are developing top talent from diverse backgrounds. By working together, we can not only increase equity amongst our ranks, but across the state.”
According to the University System of Georgia’s Office of Research and Policy Analysis, the University System of Georgia has reported increases in the enrollment, retention, and graduation of African American males system wide. This means African American male students are able to progress and be retained if they are receiving the right support, utilizing available resources, and feel more connected to campus by being involved.
“Financial support is an essential component of student success for many of our African American Male Initiative members,” said Dr. Jeremy Bauer, project director. “Our scholarships help to alleviate some of the financial pressures that our members are currently experiencing. These funds enable many of our members to remain engaged in their academic pursuits. Our scholarships have become even more impactful over the past year given the economic uncertainty faced by so many throughout the pandemic.”
Taylor earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Science from VSU in early May and plans to continue his education while pursuing a career in healthcare. He said the African American Male Initiative helped him discover his resiliency, his ability to achieve in the classroom, and his passion for inspiring others to overcome any obstacles to realizing their academic and personal goals.
“… no matter how the process looks at the moment, it’s going to be meaningful in the end … you have to continue to keep striving and persevering … [and] continue to reach out and look up to other Black male figures that are doing great [things]…,” he said during a recent interview with WALB News 10 out of Albany, Georgia.
“Anybody can do it, no matter your skin color, no matter your background.”