From HBCUs to Capitol Hill: How Congress can play an important role
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Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have long contributed as prominent educational institutions throughout our nation’s history. With esteemed alumni such as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and 2012 presidential candidate Herman CainHerman Cain'SNL' host Dave Chappelle urges Biden voters to be 'humble' winners 18 Trump rallies have led to 30,000 COVID-19 cases: Stanford University study From HBCUs to Capitol Hill: How Congress can play an important role MORE, our 101 HBCUs have had a lasting, generational impact on all branches of our government.

That's why it's important to push for opportunities for our future HBCU leaders on Capitol Hill.

Having been blessed to be honored as the only House Republican to receive the United Negro College Foundation’s HBCU Congressional President’s List Award this year, I have passionately advocated for HBCUs throughout my time representing North Carolina’s 6th District.

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In addition to hosting an annual HBCU Fly-In event with Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDemocrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (R-S.C.) — bringing together dozens of Black college chancellors and presidents — our congressional office has sought to expand opportunities in the federal government for the Black community at every level, including those just embarking on their careers.

This process began when I first came to Washington vowing to serve every North Carolina community and striving to open doors of hope and opportunity — never allowing the status quo or politics to get in my way. We quickly learned that HBCUs were integral to that effort. What we didn’t expect was to help spark national momentum that has helped lead HBCUs to the top of Washington’s priorities in the education and opportunity arena.

As the home of the largest HBCU in the United States, I’ve seen firsthand how North Carolina A&T State University has contributed immensely to the lives, education and futures of thousands of students. Previously though, for many of their students, the idea of serving in Congress may have sadly been seen as daunting or impractical.

Unfortunately, the lack of diversity among congressional staff has long been a glaring issue. Back in 2015, the Black community made up less than 1 percent of senior Senate staffers — despite representing 13 percent of the U.S. population.

This troubling reality has inspired real action and solutions in our North Carolina congressional delegation. Alongside Rep. Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsRecord number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 Armed Trump supporter arrested at North Carolina polling place From HBCUs to Capitol Hill: How Congress can play an important role MORE (D-N.C.), our office created the first-ever paid congressional internship program designed specifically for HBCU students.

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At the core of this initiative has always been our mutual passion for increasing diversity and HBCU engagement on Capitol Hill, sparking new opportunities and valuable job-training skills for these accomplished undergraduates.

Since 2016, the program has opened doors for HBCU students looking to receive a firsthand congressional experience and how Congress operates within three branches of government. This unique chance to observe how legislation is created and subsequently passed is an invaluable experience for all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.

Throughout the program’s five years of operation, we’ve witnessed our interns produce impressive work and honorable character. Strides in official employment are also being made on Capitol Hill in recent years, as the number of Black staffers has continued to increase.

These efforts are some of my proudest accomplishments during my time in the House. From our push to achieve permanent HBCU funding through our FUTURE Act to the creation of this internship program, I have been blessed with the bridges we have built across our communities and know these critical steps will have a lasting and positive impact for generations of HBCU students.

In closing: Aggie Pride!

Walker represents North Carolina’s 6th District and is vice chair of the House Republican Conference.