Growing up in inner-city Chicago as the child of a strong, single working mom and the oldest of three siblings, I learned firsthand that access to opportunity unlocks potential. My first job was delivering newspapers in my neighborhood, come rain, sleet or snow. It was on-the-job education, and I learned time management, discipline and commitment. These skills were foundational professional learnings, which served me well when I pursued my college education and throughout my career.
These early experiences also shaped my passion for promoting workforce growth and mobility in underserved communities. Today, I have the privilege to work with a group of Walmart and Sam’s Club associates brought together to help create equitable educational opportunities for Black and African Americans across two key areas: partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and support for non-traditional pathways to careers through skill development and credentials. As the largest private employer in the country, we recognize the value of traditional and non-traditional education.
Our longstanding partnership with HBCUs continues to grow. We are proud to announce that Walmart and Sam’s Club will host the inaugural HBCU Student Summit in Northwest Arkansas Oct. 7-10. Over a three-day immersive weekend, we will invite HBCU students to join us for professional development workshops and interview opportunities.
We are also continuing to leverage learnings as a launch-point for other efforts, including:
- Taking a first-of-its-kind Walmart Makers Studio experience on tour. The Walmart Makers Studio originally launched in Atlanta in partnership with The Big Homecoming and will make appearances on the 365 Impact Tour. The project takes elements of festival to HBCU campuses across the U.S., educating and inspiring students in areas like education, leadership, entrepreneurship, health and financial literacy. Learn more here.
- Sponsoring the inaugural HBCU New York Football Classic to celebrate Black excellence and culture. Learn more here.
- Bringing HBCU merchandise to stores in October to meet customer needs.
- Building upon our Equity in Education Initiative with North Carolina A&T State University, we have expanded our engagement to include Walmart executives in residence in mentor circles on campus and the pairing of 100 freshman men with mentors through the Black Male Initiative.
In addition to supporting college education, we must create multiple pathways to equitable advancement opportunities through non-degree credentialing programs. That is why the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, through Walmart and the Walmart Foundation, is complementing our work with philanthropic efforts aimed at supporting advancement opportunities for workers without college degrees. Today, we are announcing $2.5 million in grants from Walmart to support three organizations focused on these areas:
- Jobs for the Future (JFF) will expand its Racial Economic Equity Initiative and work alongside workforce leaders in the South to co-design a community-based and worker-informed research agenda, and support communities in applying these learnings to create economic growth for Black workers.
- 1890 Universities Foundation will introduce a new Faculty EXCEL Fellowship program across the 1890 HBCU land grant universities to support researchers as they evaluate non-traditional pathways for Black students and workers, and the role that the 1890 universities could play in supporting new employment pathways through short-term, non-degree credentials.
- The Education Trust will launch research projects focused on understanding the systemic barriers to post-secondary education for Black students and workers, including research to calculate the cost of credential programs for Black students by state.
I am excited about these efforts and the ongoing commitment I see at Walmart to work inside our business and within our communities to address the root causes of racial disparity in education and beyond to help advance racial equity. Our commitment is personal to many at Walmart because we see ourselves in this work. Much like my first job delivering newspapers taught me diligence and persistence, we are working to consistently create a workplace and community where there is a pathway for everyone and all feel they belong.