|SU System President Ray Belton, left, congratulates 2016 HBCU All-Star Scholar |
|L-r: Renita Marshall (mentor), Kalaia Tripeaux, President Belton|
Baton Rouge, La. - Kalaia Tripeaux, a Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical College junior, is one of 73 students from across 63 HBCUs who have been named the 2016 White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities HBCU All-Stars. The All-Stars, comprised of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, are being recognized for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, and civic engagement.
“During the course of one academic school year, the 73 All-Stars will distinguish themselves as exemplars of the talent that HBCUs cultivate and as noble ambassadors of their respective institutions,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. “The Initiative is looking forward to working with this third class of All-Stars and is confident this opportunity will allow the Initiative to meaningfully connect with HBCU students and advance academic excellence at their schools.”
Twenty-year old Tripeaux is a Baton Rouge native and a 2014 graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School. Kalaia admits she had her eyes set on attending Southern University but was unsure of a major. However, through conversations with Southern University Ag Center’s Renita Marshall, DVM, who doubles as a student recruiter, the field of agriculture began to really become intriguing to Tripeaux. She consequently participated in the Summer 2014 “Beginning Agricultural Youth Opportunities Unlimited (BAYOU) Program,” and acquired a wealth of knowledge about majors offered in the agricultural and family & consumer sciences areas.
“I decided that my interests aligned with urban forestry. I could see where my love for science and the outdoors, interaction with people, problem-solving, writing, and researching could be used in this field.”
Now an Urban Forestry major, Tripeaux was awarded scholarships by the SU Agriculture Department, Taylor Opportunity Program (TOPS), Mu Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, and the USDA’s 1890 Scholar Program to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge.
In the spring of 2016, Tripeaux was one of 11 SU Baton Rouge urban forestry students selected to receive a Global Scholar Award through the Global Research Experience for Students Program launched by the Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Program.
When the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities HBCU All-Stars opportunity was announced, Tripeaux states that many of her agriculture professors said that she would be a good candidate and was encouraged to apply.
“So, in other words, I was encouraged by the faculty and staff of the Agriculture Department to apply for this honor,” she said.
Tripeaux was selected from a national pool of 300 candidates.
“I am very humbled and honored to represent Southern University and network with other HBCU All-Stars across the country to promote the endless educational opportunities that are possible with an HBCU education. When I got the phone call, I was almost in tears because I knew that winners would be notified that day (August 18), and I had yet to receive a phone call so for the longest I was thinking that I did not win.”
In addition to serving as an ambassador with 72 other students, Tripeaux will participate in the White House HBCU Week Conference, and national and regional events, during the year.
During this year, Tripeaux says she hopes to highlight the wonderful opportunities that are possible with an HBCU education, promote student life on the campus of an HBCU, and inspire students to focus on leadership, scholarship, and community service in order to gain success in life. The guidance and support that have been showered upon me at Southern University and A&M College has allowed me to sow my seeds in knowledge, leadership, and community service.
“I want to be able to share my experiences of how I found success and self-fulfillment at Southern University and encourage more students to consider attending an HBCU. I am excited about my future and know that the education I am receiving will allow me to compete globally. An HBCU education is one that goes beyond expectations. At Southern University, I have been able to partake in meaningful activities that have enhanced my understanding of education, campus life, and community needs. I know that I will be prepared for all of life’s challenges.”
As an undergraduate student, Tripeaux engages in other academic and personal achievements and campus and civic engagement. She has maintained a 3.5 cumulative grade point average and made the Chancellor’s List several times. She also participated in a summer internship with the USDA Forestry Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I have served as an officer of the Urban Forestry Club for two years. I am also a member of JAGS in AG and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANNRS). I am a 2016 initiate of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and represent the sorority on the campus Pan-Hellenic Council. I speak regularly to local high school classes to promote Southern University and urban forestry.”
Although Dr. Marshall serves as her advisor in the JAGS in AG program, Tripeaux says she admires the entire faculty and staff of the Agriculture Department who are always there to motivate and give support, for having set high expectations for her and really pushing her to achieve high goals, particularly ag researcher Marlon Ford.
“Mrs. Dawn Ventress Kight who works in the library has been very inspiring to me as well. She is always willing to be of assistance and I can count on her to give me encouraging words.”
Tripeaux’s future plans include obtaining a Ph.D. in Urban Forestry.
“I am elated to be an HBCU All-Star and represent SU. I hope I will be an inspiration to many generations that follow. I have been given the opportunity to represent these brilliant individuals and become a part of a unique legacy that gets a chance to show the world that great educational opportunities are available at HBCUs.”
This is the third consecutive year a student from SU was selected as an HBCU All-Star. In 2014, SU student Robert Chambers was honored with the same award. He has earned a doctoral degree in Urban Forestry and is employed by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Sally Ross, received the award in 2015. She graduated with a B.S. degree in Urban Forestry and was the College Marshal, the student with the highest grade point average in her College, for the 2015 Spring semester graduating class. After gaining research experience at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, she is on her way to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.