The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities recently announced Brittany Fitzgerald-Hill, a junior majoring in behavioral studies, as one of its 2021 HBCU Scholars. 

“My purpose is to be a servant,” the HBCU Scholar stated.  “As an HBCU Scholar, I will be the voice of the forgotten and unknown. I strive to create a legacy, not for me, but for my son, and those around and after me.”

This is the eighth cohort of HBCU Scholars. The program recognizes 86 undergraduates, graduate, and professional students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement and much more. The scholars were selected from an applicant pool of more than 200 students who submitted completed applications that included a transcript, resume, essay, and letter of recommendation. Applications also required the signature of their university president, adding a level of prestige to this application process.

“We are so pleased that one of our outstanding students has been selected for this distinguished honor,” said Dr. Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College.  “This outstanding student is on a trajectory for greatness, following in the footsteps of other ABC giants, such as Rev. Cora Alston, Tremaine Sells , Elder Dr. J. L. Fitzgerald (her grandfather), and of course our Civil Rights giants, such as Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C. T. Vivian among many others to emulate.”

“Brittany is the type of student that exudes talent, skill, knowledge, and social justice, which is in her DNA and speaks volumes of her character.  The entire academic team, including faculty, staff, and students is so proud of her achievements,” said Phyllis Hildreth, vice president for Institutional Strategy and Academics.

Fitzgerald-Hill is a Nashville native with a heart for social justice. She went to Washington, D.C., to participate in the commemorative March on Washington, August 2020. She also traveled to Louisville to protest the killing of Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her bed during a police raid. She has continued to travel to cities that have endured racial injustice and police brutality to stand with the families of those for whom we march and fight for justice. During the Rep. John Lewis Memorial Celebration weekend, July 16, Fitzgerald-Hill presented a painting to the Lewis family that she painted, which was preceded by her also presenting one to the family of Breonna Taylor.  While enrolled at ABC, she has served as a work-study student in the Division of Administration, Campus Operations, and Legal Affairs.

“We are extremely proud of Brittany and her strong work ethic and ‘sticktoitiveness,’” said Richard Jackson, executive vice president.  “She has drive and always finds a way to be creative and to serve.”

Fitzgerald-Hill is a certified crisis counselor with a state agency, an author of two self-care journals, an advocate for suicide prevention, and founder of the Even Me campaign, a mentoring program for youth. The organization’s purpose has recently turned to reaching and reminding all that we deserve a second chance.

“At some point you must reach out for help. After all my bad choices I am still given a second chance. Hence … Even Me” said Fitzgerald-Hill. Her precious time is spent with her family. Her star shines ever-so-brightly outside of academics, as well: Brittany won a car in 2020 in a 92Q contest sponsored in part by Ben and Jewel Tankard of the Destiny Center Church.

“The HBCU Scholars have demonstrated remarkable dedication to their learning and exemplify the talent that our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have nurtured for generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The students who hold this honor are committed to creating a more just and equitable society through their civic engagement. They are leaders and change-makers in their communities, and I cannot wait to learn from them as they serve as ambassadors both for the White House Initiative and their institutions of higher education.”  

Selected HBCU Scholars will be invited to the 2021 HBCU Week National Annual Conference, which will take place September 7-10, in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference theme is “Exploring Equity.” During the scholars’ time at the conference, they will participate in sessions about entrepreneurship, innovation, and personal and professional development. Most importantly, they will also have opportunities to engage with one another and showcase their individual and collective talents across the HBCU community.

Hill was thrilled to be honored as a scholar and noted, “Life may shake you up and knock you down. However, the courage is getting up and preparing to stand again.”