College of Coastal Georgia launched a new program this year to honor the area’s highest achieving Black students annually.

CCGA recently hosted its inaugural Black Scholars Program, during which the college honored 76 students from 18 high school in the 12-county region.

“Our goal is to host this program each year to honor the top Black students from schools in the Coastal Georgia region,” said Jason Umfress, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at the college. “In future years, we will honor the top juniors in those schools. However this year, since it’s our inaugural year, we are excited to host the top juniors and seniors from these high schools in the coastal region.”

Michelle Johnston, president of the college, congratulated the students on their achievements, noting that the first ceremony was a historic event on CCGA’s campus.

“As we hold this very first program and reception to recognize and honor this distinguished group of scholars, I am really really proud of the efforts that have been taking place to celebrate, to promote, to recognize and to create an ever-more diverse and inclusive college here,” Johnston said.

The college established an Office of Diversity Initiatives as well as the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion in 2020.

“That commission’s charge is to drive cultural and institutional change through exploration, through education, through understanding and also through relationship building,” Johnston said. “And we hope that we’re beginning a relationship with everyone in this room today in new ways.”

College of Coastal Georgia Foundation member David Zimmerman also recently launched a new Rose Scholarship for Black scholars, Johnston said.

Syvillia Averett, an assistant mathematics professor at the college, gave the keynote address. She’s heartened, she said, to see the progress that’s being made as Black scholars like herself and the students honored this year pursue higher education in growing numbers.

She urged the students to seize opportunities and to pursue fields that they’re passionate about.

“Work hard, dedicate yourselves to learning, to growing, to helping, to striving, so that we can see even more progress,” Averett said.

She congratulated the students on earning a spot in the first class of CCGA Black Scholars.

“You all may come from different backgrounds and have different life experiences and expectations,” Averett said. “But you’re all here because there is potential for greatness. You belong here. You can excel here.”

Quinton Staples, the director of diversity initiatives at the college, introduced all the honorees, calling them by name up to the stage to be recognized.

“I’m truly, truly grateful to be able to witness such a momentous occasion here at the College of Coastal Georgia,” he said. “To see the commitment in our leadership, in our faculty and our staff and in the community to see this happen is not lost on me. And so as everyone has said, I hope that you recognize that this is a moment to celebrate you.”

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