Langston University White House HBCU Scholar aims to revitalize communities of color | Langston University

Langston University White House HBCU Scholar aims to revitalize communities of color

Langston University White House HBCU Scholar aims to revitalize communities of color

by Ellie Melero, Media Relations Specialist

Dec. 4, 2023

Lovette Mba has always been passionate about her community.

The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Mba was raised in a tight-knit Nigerian community in Wichita, Kansas, alongside her brother and sisters. Their community was like a second family, and their communal Aunts and Uncles embraced the Mba children, giving them opportunities to learn about and participate in cultural activities that they may not have otherwise had an opportunity to experience growing up outside of Nigeria. These community relationships and experiences were an integral part of Mba’s childhood, and Mba knows she would not be the same without them.

“I'm Nigerian American and I grew up in the Nigerian community back in Wichita,” Mba said. “And honestly, I attribute who I am, my qualities to growing up in that community.”

Mba’s heavy involvement with the community was thanks to her parents. Her parents were entrepreneurs, and they instilled in their children Christian values and disciplined work ethics. They always encouraged their kids to find ways to give back, and that is a lesson Mba took to heart.

“Our parents have always instilled in us that it’s about giving back to the community, giving back to others and just basically having a higher sense of service over ourselves,” said Marygrace Mba, Lovette’s older sister. “So growing up, we were always involved in something, whether it was our church, whether it was our community, whether it was just a one day volunteer thing. Whatever it was, we were always willing to do it because that’s just what we learned.”

In high school, Mba became involved with Destination Innovation Inc., an organization dedicated to giving young people the tools and knowledge needed to become leaders in their communities through civic engagement, entrepreneurship and juvenile justice reform. These activities energized Mba, and she realized that’s what she wanted to do with her life: find ways to promote economic development in communities of color.

This is a task easier said than done, but Mba knew her first step would be to further her education. She knew she wanted to attend a Historically Black College or University, but her parents wanted her to stay close to home. This posed a problem because Kansas has no HBCUs.

“I dreamed of going to an HBCU,” Mba said. “But they're all so far away. And my parents didn't want me to go out of state, so I made a deal with them. If I could get a full ride somewhere, then they’ve got to let me go.”

So that’s what she did. She came to Langston University in 2020 as a business management major with an Edwin P. McCabe Scholarship, which paid for her tuition, room and board, and a textbook stipend. And then Dear Langston became her new community.

Despite starting college at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mba was determined to make the most out of her time in school. She learned how to create her own fun and make friends through social distancing, and she took advantage of every opportunity to get involved once the covid restrictions lessened. She joined multiple organizations, participated in the Student Government Association and even started a new student organization: the African Student Association.

“My main goal coming to Langston was to build community with like-minded people,” Mba said. “And I feel like I’ve been able to do that these past three years.”

Part of what has helped Mba achieve this goal, along with many others, is her ability to look for opportunities and take advantage of them when they appear. That’s what she was doing while scrolling through LinkedIn one night when she stumbled across the application for the White House HBCU Scholar program.

Since 2014, the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities has recognized exceptional HBCU students who have excelled in the areas of academic achievement, civic and campus engagement, and entrepreneurial ethos. While reading about the program, Mba realized that it aligned with her goals and could help her pursue her passion for economic development.

“That’s really what I’m passionate about: economic development, community revitalization,” Mba said. “I really felt like it was God leading me to this opportunity, so I applied.”

Mba waited for months after submitting her application with no word on whether she was accepted. Then, the White House published a press release naming the 102 White House HBCU Scholars for the 2023-24 school year, and her name was on the list.

She was ecstatic.

Not only was she being recognized on a national level for all her hard work, but she would also be given tools and opportunities to learn more about economic development and how it can be utilized to help people. Since July, the program has given her mentorship opportunities, the opportunity to attend the National HBCU Week Conference in Virginia, and she will have the opportunity to participate in a hackathon sponsored by NASA.

As a White House HBCU Scholar, Mba’s goal for this year has been to learn as much as she can and try to apply that knowledge to Langston University and the City of Langston. She said she wants to create an incubation program for student entrepreneurs to not only invest in their businesses, but to also allow them to reinvest in the City of Langston.

“There are so many student entrepreneurs on our campus,” Mba said. “And I truly feel that Langston, the City of Langston, needs transformation, and that can only happen from our student body on a more economic level, like promoting the entrepreneurs on campus.”

As she works with other off-campus organizations to try to establish this program, she is also making plans for her own future. She is considering earning a graduate degree in either urban planning or business administration, but she’s also hoping to work with a program in Wichita which promotes community revitalization through economic development.

Whatever she chooses to do, it will put her one step closer to achieving her goals.

“I picture myself going into communities of color and transforming them culturally, economically and creatively,” Mba said. “That’s just always been my dream, to go into communities of color and just transform them for the better, to be able to bring more business opportunities there and allow the community to really circulate their dollars and be able to invest in businesses that are also investing in them.”

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