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Northwestern Mutual’s Hometown HBCU Connection: Empowering Futures

Northwestern Mutual’s Hometown HBCU Connection: Empowering Futures


Last Updated on June 13, 2024

Northwestern Mutual building and the 2024 Hometown HBCU Connection Scholarship recipients.

Imagine a scholarship that’s not just about easing financial burdens but also about opening doors to mentorship, internships, and a supportive community. That’s the vibe of Northwestern Mutual’s Hometown HBCU Connection Scholarship, a game-changer for Milwaukee students dreaming of attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Meet Grady Crosby: The Man with a Plan

Grady Crosby, Vice President and Chief Sustainability and Impact Officer at Northwestern Mutual, smiling in a professional headshot.

Grady Crosby, Vice President and Chief Sustainability and Impact Officer at Northwestern Mutual, is passionate about making a difference. An HBCU alum himself, Crosby gets it. “We knew there were a number of students in Milwaukee who had a desire to go to historically black colleges and universities. Being in the Midwest, HBCU campuses are few and far between, but there are a number of students who would love to go. We know the rich cultural experiences that students get at those campuses. We know the rich academic rigor that goes on at those campuses,” Crosby shared.

Mentorship Magic: More Than Just a Scholarship

This scholarship isn’t just about the money. It’s about creating a network of support. “Mentorship is very powerful because it contributes to their professional and personal growth and development,” Crosby said. “In addition to the financial support, after the students have completed their second year, they are then eligible for a Northwestern Mutual internship. Through those internships, they are then connected with professionals within our organization as well.”

Crosby shared inspiring stories from the first cohort. “What was really inspiring to me was to see these kids lift their eyes and say, ‘Hmm! There are a number of kids right here in Milwaukee similarly situated to me, who are attending HBCUs.’ And guess what? They are seeing some of the same things that I see dealing with some of the same issues that all first-year students that go away to college have to deal with, and they’re able to lean on each other for that type of support.”

Breaking Down Barriers

Forty percent of Black students cite mental health issues, high cost, and lack of preparation among the barriers while pursuing secondary education, according to the State of Higher Education 2024 Report. Northwestern Mutual is on a mission to make a difference in higher education for local students headed to HBCU campuses across the country.

Next Gen Leaders: Meet the New Cohort

Northwestern Mutual is excited to announce the second cohort of the Hometown HBCU Connection Scholarship recipients. With only nine percent of Milwaukee students earning both high school and college diplomas, and only 14 percent achieving a two- or four-year degree, this scholarship aims to change the game.

Nine new students have been awarded the scholarship, which is part of a $500,000 investment over five years to support 36 students. The scholarship offers financial support, mentorship, cohort-building, and paid internships and job opportunities, addressing major barriers to college enrollment and retention for Black students.

Recipients were selected based on academic performance, leadership, community participation, work experience, and career goals. Many aim to learn more about themselves within a driven community and plan to return to their hometown post-graduation to offer unique perspectives.

Introducing the Class of 2024

  • Tamera Hughes, headed to Fayetteville State University for its business administration program and a “homey” feel. A jewelry maker with a mindset to serve others, she’s pumped about the opportunities this scholarship brings.
  • Tamia Hughes, Tamera’s twin, is also going to Fayetteville State University, pursuing nursing. She reflects resilience and exemplifies what can happen when one dreams big and works hard.
  • Jada Hughes, off to Morgan State University to major in psychology, inspired by witnessing mental health struggles around her. She looks forward to new experiences and strengthening her interpersonal skills.
  • Taylor Harris, majoring in criminal justice at Southern University A&M College, inspired by her track coach. As the founder of her school’s Black Student Union, she chose an HBCU to learn more about African American experiences and history.
  • Zion Thomas, pursuing civil engineering at North Carolina A&T State University, aims to fix infrastructures in low-income communities and has always dreamed of attending an HBCU.
  • Karrington Parrish, continuing her family’s tradition by attending Spelman College to major in health science. She hopes her story of overcoming setbacks inspires others.
  • Loren Muwonge, majoring in political science at Spelman College, seeks to empower communities through arts and advocacy. She looks forward to experiencing the “Black Mecca” of Atlanta and the opportunities this scholarship offers.
  • Paishance Collins, majoring in business at Fayetteville State University, aspires to create a nonprofit for financial literacy in Milwaukee.
  • Ilstlo Beiersdorf Jr., majoring in computer science at Morehouse College, driven by his love for video games and excited about the academic challenges ahead as a first-generation college student.

Investing in the Future

Looking ahead, Northwestern Mutual is committed to expanding this initiative. “Right now we’ve pledged to invest over half a million dollars in this program over the next five years,” Crosby stated. “We’re not just talking about supporting education; we’re investing in it. Our goal is to ensure the success of these students and, ultimately, to see them thrive in their professional lives.”

Crosby’s advice to other corporations looking to support higher education for underrepresented communities is simple but powerful: “Whatever you do, just do your part. If all of us just did our part right there in our concentric circle of concern, the impact would be absolutely tremendous.”

Calling All Future Leaders

For Gen Z students interested in exploring careers in financial services, Crosby’s advice is clear: “Stay intellectually inquisitive. Understand how finances work and engage with companies like Northwestern Mutual that are committed to reducing barriers and creating opportunities.”

Northwestern Mutual’s Hometown HBCU Scholarship program is more than just financial aid. It’s a comprehensive support system designed to empower students, build networks, and prepare them for successful futures. As Crosby said, “A good prepared student that takes advantage of opportunities, such as the opportunities that they’ll have in this program, I just believe they’ll end up landing in a very good spot in the future.”

With initiatives like this, Northwestern Mutual is not only investing in the education of HBCU students but also in the future of our communities, ensuring a legacy of excellence and opportunity for generations to come.

Visit Northwestern Mutual’s website to learn more about their Hometown HBCU Connection Scholarship program and other initiatives supporting education and community development.

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