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It's no secret that Historically Black Colleges and Universities offer world-class education. For centuries, HBCUs have produced remarkable alumni who have excelled in sports, entertainment, arts, politics, philanthropy, and more.
In partnership with BET's HBweCU initiative, Walmart, one of the country's largest retailers, amplifies the importance and impact of lesser-known schools with "An HBCU Made Me."
Walmart and BET help spotlight the inspiring stories of notable figures who've graduated from Black academic institutions to provide a unique look into the HBCU student experience and transformative journey to careers with Black & Unlimited potential.
From Howard University graduate Kamala Harris to Megan The Stallion, who recently graduated from Texas Southern University, well-known celebrities have represented and popularized HBCUs, making Black higher education institutions among Black youth's most sought-after campuses. However, out of the 104 accredited HBCUs, there is only a handful that large brands recognize for academic scholarships and other much-deserved resources.
Below, get familiar with three impressive alums from Mississippi Valley State University, North Carolina Central University, and Virginia State University.
Lenise Stallings Head Basketball Coach, Women's Team at Chowan University Alma Mater: Mississippi Valley State University
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Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Lenise attended Mississippi Valley State University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in biology in 2013 and master's degree in Bioinformatics in 2016. While there, she also played her collegiate basketball career. She later began her coaching career for the MVSU women's basketball team in 2016-17 as an assistant coach after serving as a graduate assistant from 2014-2016.
Before her impressive debut in her current role as head women's basketball coach at Chowan University, she spent two seasons as the assistant coach at historically Black university Tennessee State, where she helped the Tigers secure the program's largest recruiting class and a spot in the top-25 most improved Division I women's basketball programs. She then leveled up her professional career at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, orchestrating the Wildcats' first winning season in three years as head coach before landing at Chowan.
It's clear that Lenise improves every team she touches, thanks to her beginnings at her beloved MVSU.
Though she has entered her fourth season with the Chowan Hawks, the Tennessee-based basketball coach will always be a true-blue Devilette at heart.
"I am truly honored to have been chosen to be in this position," she said of her appointment as head coach as the Hawks' NCAA head women's basketball coach. "My vision is to bring excellence back to Murfreesboro, academically, athletically, and in the community."
Jasmine Crowe-Houston Founder & CEO of Goodr, children's book author, TEDx speaker Alma Mater: North Carolina Central University
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Atlanta-based multihyphenate Jasmine Crowe-Houston has built a successful career around giving back to those in need.
The award-winning social entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Goodr, a sustainable waste management and hunger relief company that leverages technology and logistics to help its partners reduce their food waste. She launched the startup after years of feeding people experiencing homelessness from her own kitchen. In 2021, she also released Everybody Eats, a children's book inspired by her daughter that focuses on character-building and educating kids about food waste.
"When you put people first and you treat people well, the money will come, the profits will come," she told goBeyondProfit of Goodr's people-first values. "And that has always happened for us at Goodr."
But despite her enormous global impact and financial success year after year, Jasmine never forgets to reach back to her roots at North Carolina Central University and HBCUs.
Jasmine received her B.A. from NCCU in 2005 and proudly returned in 2021 to give the 137th commencement speech. Then, in 2022, she announced Goodr's first-ever HBCU Summer Internship Program, where HBCU students will help address issues of hunger and reduce food waste while earning $10,000.
Because of her unwavering commitment to community, sustainable solutions, and lasting change, she has been featured on CNBC, Oprah Magazine, Forbes, Fast Co., and the New York Times and named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the top 100 influential female founders.
"I am so grateful for my NCCU Experience," she says, "and I wouldn't change it for anything."
Misster Ray Author, host, TV personality, community advocate, actor & entrepreneur Alma Mater: Virginia State University
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The Richmond native gained popularity while starring in BET's College Hill – America's first Black reality TV series – as the network's first-ever talent who identifies as a person in the LGBTQIA+ community. The award-winning show granted never-before-seen access to the HBCU experience at schools such as Virginia State University, Ray's alma mater.
At VSU, Ray earned a bachelor's degree in mass communications and a master's degree in media management and ignited his passion for HBCUs and political progress for minorities. Since his time on the Trojans' campus, he has successfully built a career in multimedia as a radio host, bestselling author (Mess With A Message), and entrepreneur alongside his work in community service.
Ray is now an ambassador for the National College Resources Foundation (NCRF) Black College Expo, assisting with recruiting high school students to attend HBCUs nationwide.
Additionally, Ray has released America's first-ever Black college novelty board game, Yardopoly, which celebrates HBCU culture.
"I have so many people to this day contacting me on social media saying College Hill either made them attend Virginia State University or go to an HBCU in general," Ray told Shadow and Act. "It's been 15 years, and it's cool to know the show has influenced an entire generation… because of my participation in the show."
Because of Ray's continued ties to HBCUs and the community, he was awarded Richmond Black Pride's Community Media Award. The City of Petersburg also presented Ray with a proclamation for his humanitarianism and community efforts. Most recently, he is now a 2023 recipient of the Biden/Harris Presidential Award for Community Service, which he will be awarded along with an honorary doctorate's degree in Humanitarianism from Leaders Esteem Christian Bible University.
With Ray balancing his commitments both personally and professionally, he continues his work of systemically helping his community and strengthening his platform for better civic engagement while strengthening minority representation in various forms of media.
And it all started at Virginia State University.
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