White House Initiative Names TSU Student 2018 HBCU Competitiveness Scholar for Academics, Leadership

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A top Tennessee State University student with dreams to change his Kentucky neighborhood has been named a 2018 HBCU Competitiveness Scholar by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Jailen Leavell, a sophomore mass communications major with a concentration in broadcast journalism, will serve as an ambassador of the White House Initiative by providing outreach and communication with his fellow students about the value of education and the Initiative as a networking resource.

Jonathan M. Holifield, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, right, congratulates Jailen Leavell in Washington, D.C. (Submitted Photo)

Selected for his accomplishments in academics, leadership and civic engagement, Leavell was among 63 undergraduate, graduate and professional students chosen from 54 HBCUs. They were recognized for successfully preparing to “compete for top opportunities that improve long-term outcomes.” Each student was nominated and endorsed by their institution’s president.

Leavell, the third TSU student selected by the White House Initiative in the last five years, is a member of the TSU Honors College with a near 3.6 grade point average. He is also president of the sophomore class.

“We are very excited to learn of Jailen Leavell’s selection as a White House 2018 HBCU Competitiveness Scholar,” said Dr. Alisa Mosley, interim vice president for Academic Affairs. “Mr. Leavell is a very engaged student who exemplifies academic excellence. He is engaging in national dialogue about promoting peace as a fellow with the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center, and as a proactive member of our Student Government Association.”

According to a release from the White House Initiative, Leavell and his fellow Competitive Scholars will serve for one year, during which they will learn and share “proven and promising practices that support individual and HBCU competitiveness, with the goal of strengthening prospects for career and life success.”

Leavell grew up in West Louisville, Kentucky, with high crime, violence and poverty. He wants to change that. He calls the White House honor “a representation of me, my community and my environment.”

“Growing up in West Louisville, the narrative is, ‘You will not make it outside of Louisville,’ and going after this award is all part of my effort to change that,” said Leavell, who grew up about eight blocks from the boyhood home of the late boxing champion Mohammad Ali.

“If Mohammad Ali can grow up eight blocks from me and become the greatest of all time and …change the world, I can do that eight blocks down the road. I love Louisville. I just have a lot of pride in my city and ultimately I just want to change it, with black people doing positive things, black businesses flourishing, stopping violence and just changing the narrative.”

Leavell thanked TSU President Glenda Glover for recommending him, and Charles Jennings, director of the TSU Career Development Center, for helping him through the “rigorous process.”

Department of Media Relations

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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.