By Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In America.com
I was in the middle of writing an article on how the Obama administration is not a friend of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Under this administration the number of PLUS loans granted was cut in half. This policy changed forced 28,000 HBCU students to drop out, and cost schools $150 million. And then I was presented the opportunity to interview Cheryl A. Harris, Allstate Insurance Senior Vice President of Sourcing and Procurement Solutions.
Ms. Harris is a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU). She wanted to discuss Allstate’s Quotes For Education Program, an initiative established in 2009 to raise scholarship funds for financially struggling students attending HBCUs.
Currently there is a growing rate of HBCU students who are forced to withdraw from their academic programs due to financial hardships. In an effort to create additional scholarship opportunities Allstate has partnered with the Tom Joyner Foundation for the Allstate Quotes for Education program.
Under this program Allstate Insurance will donate $10, up to a total of $200,000, for every person who gets a quote from an Allstate Insurance Agent and mentions Quotes for Education from now through Nov. 30. In addition, for the third year in a row, everyone will also have a chance to cast their vote for the HBCU of their choice to receive an additional $50,000 in scholarship funding. In 2013, Grambling State University received the most votes and distributed scholarship funds to students in need.
As of Thursday, November 19th, the top 5 colleges on the Leaderboard are:
• #1 Grambling State University
• #2 Southern University A&M College
• #3 Tennessee State University
• #4 Florida A&M University
• #5 Alabama A&M University
Cheryl Harris also talked about role modeling, the advantages of attending HBCUs and more. Here are some highlights from our interview:
BMIA.com: Is Allstate’s involvement with HBCUs a result of the Obama administration’s funding cuts for Historically Black Colleges and Universities?
Cheryl Harris: “Yes, it’s the administration’s cut in funding; the state’s cut in funding, its parents who don’t have the financial wherewithal or ability to keep their children in school. We had about 28,000 students who dropped out of school in 2012. That’s a big number when you think about it. The purpose of this program is to raise money to keep kids in school. We have a really strong partnership with the Tom Joyner Foundation to maximize the number of dollars that we can make available to the foundation and ultimately to the students.”
BMIA.com: We understand that Allstate Insurance will donate $10, up to a total of $200,000, for every person who gets a quote from an Allstate Insurance Agent and mentions “Quotes for Education.” Is this true?
Cheryl Harris: “That is correct. As of today, we’re at $190,000. I hope that you are familiar with an additional component of the program, where Allstate will award an additional $50,000 in scholarship funding when you vote for the HBCU of their choice. The promotion ends at the end of the month. We want people to visit www.allstate.com/hbcu and vote for the HBCU of their choice. We want people to get online and have family, friends, colleagues and business partners vote for the HBCU of their choice. When you think about the roles of HBCUs, FAMU and all of our HBCUs have played an important part in our nation’s history. Participating in this program is a very easy set of things to do to make a difference in the lives of students who deserve to go to school and graduate from HBCUs. I’m very authentic and passionate about my involvement in this program. I’m happy to be working for a company that cares about giving back to the community.”
BMIA.com: What’s the best part of being Cheryl A. Harris?
Cheryl Harris: “To understand my response to this question you have to understand me. I’m from Chicago born to an unwed mother at 16. Statistically I’m not supposed to be in this spot. History was supposed to repeat itself and I was supposed to be an unwed mother with about 10 kids right now. The goodness about being me is that I believe I’m in a position to give others hope that have lost hope and let people see that there is possibility if they want to achieve. I feel good about that every day to know that I beat the system and I’m in a spot where I can motivate and encourage others to do the same. We talk about the lack of role models in our community, in particular for African American men. I think when you see how HBCU alums come together to be those role models, it excites me to wake up and think about all the possibilities for the next generation of leaders, the next generation of African Americans. I get to wake up and do this every day because I’m appreciated at Allstate. People thank me for doing this. It feels good to be able to give back. That’s what it’s like to be me. I’m married and have 5 kids at home. We’re taking our first one away for a college visit in January and the first place we’re going is FAMU. I’m all about living and I want to make sure that my actions back up my beliefs every single day.”
BMIA.com: What else do we need to know about this Allstate program and HBCUs?
Cheryl Harris: “If people can spend 1 minute to vote online, you can help us; help a deserving school win $50,000 to keep our students in school. That’s one. I still encourage people to support Allstate by getting a quote. My goal every year is to max out what we can give so I can ask for more. I feel good about what Allstate does. We’re not doing it for marketing; we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Having consumers support Allstate is important because we are walking the talk. We live it, we breath it, we do it. We know that there are students out there who will be able to complete their education because of this program and that’s a very important thing that we all need to take to heart. Go to www.allstate.com/hbcu and vote for the HBCU of their choice. It makes a difference.”
BMIA.com: Thank you Cheryl Harris.
Cheryl Harris: Thank you Gary.
Thank you to Samantha Falchook from TAYLOR (Public Relations & Strategy) for arranging this interview.