Investing in the Potential of the University of South Florida’s Black Students

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Education has the power to close economic and social equity gaps. However, we’ve known for decades that significant achievement gaps persist for certain student populations. And COVID-19 has shined a glaring spotlight on the fact that things have gotten worse for those students, not better. This is especially apparent in data on learning losses, growing achievement gaps, and declines in postsecondary enrollment. 

In Florida, Helios is committed to closing education achievement gaps for low-income and Black students. In partnership with the Black Leaders Network (BLN) at the University of South Florida, Helios supported the creation of Helios-BLN Scholars aimed at serving Black students on campus. Founded in 2018, the BLN cohort model is proving successful. BLN scholars receive financial support, mentorship, academic support, and professional development from education leaders as well as community mentors on their path to completion. 

The BLN cohort model fosters a sense of community among students, many of whom are the first in their families to pursue higher education. “It’s given me lots of opportunities meeting with some amazing people, people of color specifically, who have a lot of connections,” shared Frankkeishia (Keisha) Butler, member of the founding 2018 BLN cohort. 

“The partnership with USF’s Black Leadership Network has been a truly impactful one,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO. “We have seen first-hand how supportive relationships and networking have helped students overcome typical barriers to college persistence, while allowing them to connect with Tampa’s community leaders. We are extremely proud of this relationship and how it continues to impact students.”