By Leona Dunn
NAAAHP stands for the National Association of African Americans Honors Program. It started twenty-five years ago when 20 honors college directors met at Morehouse College and had a vision. Which will make the 26th anniversary just as special, going back to where it all began.
“There are so many conferences and award programs that we go to, but none are as intimate or as memorable as the NAAAHP conference,” Carolyn Giggs, a Camlin honors student says. “It’s always a new location, new faces, and an amazing place to showcase our research and what we offer as young black educated students to the world.”
With Recruiters from Harvard, Howard, Vanderbilt, and other Graduate programs coming to meet the students, along with free professional headshots and etiquette training, the conference always has a lot in store for its students. Still, the conference is always hard to schedule. This is mainly because it is during homecoming season, a very important time for alumni and students to come back to their alma maters and celebrate the past and future of our beloved Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This year it landed on Spelman and Morehouse’s scheduled celebration but that did not stop them from showing up and showing out.
“We missed Saturday because of the homecoming game but thank God we were just three hours away because we enjoy coming every year and just being indulged in black excellence. It’s a pleasure to be invited and an adventure every time we come, “ said one Morehouse student.
The students had plenty to do, whether it was roaming the town, attend one another’s research panels, discussions, debates, or the quiz bowl competition. Yet the most exciting part of the conference was electing the new student officials for next year. Tensions rose as students campaigned for the most sought out positions every year, Mr. and Miss NAAAHP.
With over 50 schools represented, four men ran for Mister and six young ladies for Miss, all presenting speeches before voting electronically commenced with Eric Hobsen from Jackson State continuing his reign from last year and Jade Omodara from FAMU taking the crown as Miss.
“I am not going to lie, I didn’t think I was going to win at first but when I found out I almost cried,” Omodara said.
The student activities commenced with a love seminar hosted by Pastor Jackson from Pleasant Green, right here in Nashville on Jefferson Street. Then the annual talent show kicked off the final night of workshops before the Gala ended the conference as a whole the next day.
“We need to give our old relationships an autopsy,” Pastor Jackson advised, “because if we can find out what killed the old ones then we hopefully won’t bring those same diseases into the new one. And this is all relationships whether intimate, friendships or even family ones.”
After that message, talents ranging from monologues, poetry, song, rap and praise dance took over, as the schools showed off their talented tenth. Next, the night was filled with last minute bonding and networking as people packed up and prepped for the Gala the next day.
“I meet amazing people every year here, who I try to keep in touch with. It is important and powerful for us to keep these national connections, one HBCU to another. It forms this unity that’s so enriching and amazing to say you’re a part of,” said Alexyandria Nelson, a Southern University honors student.
“We are literally sitting next to the next doctors, lawyers, inventors, and media moguls. Literally everyone in this room I already see doing amazing things, making a mark in their schools and communities, and now we’re all in one room together for the last time this year. It’s amazing but it sucks at the same time,” proclaims Kendall Anderson, a honors college student here Tennessee state university. “We are all looking forward to this conference next year and to even bigger things happening for us in years to come.”