JACKSON, Miss –Jackson State University sophomore Morgan Graves was one of over 40 students invited by White House officials to an HBCU student journalist White House briefing, in late February, with Vice President Kamala Harris and Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Atlanta mayor and President Joe Biden’s senior adviser for public engagement.
Graves, a journalism and media studies major, expressed how the correspondent experience was a blessing that she humbly received, given that she was the youngest in the room.
“In my head, I was thinking, ‘Is this real or is this a dream’ because the whole process happened so quickly. I wasn’t able to process what was going on until I walked through the gates and looked around. I was like, ‘Oh wow, I’m really here at the White House,’” said Graves, who also serves as Miss Sophomore for the 22-23 academic school year.
The Indiana native explained that student journalists were directed to the national briefing room upon arrival. Bottoms and Harris, both HBCU graduates, addressed the students and fielded questions about journalism, the economy, HBCU policies and concerns.
Bottoms shared her HBCU student experiences and how the Biden administration is trying to safeguard those experiences for future generations. She urged students to pay attention to their local public servants and to have a voice in the day-to-day at their universities.
Graves expressed her gratitude toward the Vice President of Student Affairs FranCee Brown-McClure, Ph.D., for offering her the opportunity.
“We had less than a week to make everything happen. The White House is fast-paced, and when an opportunity becomes available, you have to move quickly,” said Brown-McClure. “These are the kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities we are committed to making happen for our students.”
Cateatra D. Mallard, the director of the Center for Student Engagement & Leadership, accompanied Graves to D.C. When asked about her favorite part of the visit, Mallard said:
“I really loved seeing so many students in one space representing their HBCUs and representing well. It was also a bit surreal to sit in the press-conference room of the white house that we see on CNN and other networks. That room is snug and small but seems so much larger on the screen.”
Graves said she recognized that experiences like the White House briefing are bigger than her.
“I’m doing this for the people that look like me, come from the same place as me, see what I’ve seen. A win for one of us is a win for all of us,” she said.
– This story is by Arnisha Baker, JSU PR intern.