DeBoles Attends HBCU Student Journalist White House Briefing

DeBoles White House Briefing 2023

Charlotte, N.C./Feb. 24, 2023 – Johnson C. Smith University’s Communication Arts department was invited to send one student journalist to attend a White House briefing, and they decided to send senior Jayla DeBoles.

The briefing was hosted by Keisha Lance Bottoms, the senior advisor to the President for Public Engagement, and featured a visit from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Jayla poses from behind podium in briefing room
DeBoles poses behind podium in briefing room at the White House.

“I am most excited about the chance to ask both Keisha Lance Bottoms and Vice President Kamala Harris questions about their roles as women in politics and what their representation means for other women who look like them,” said DeBoles prior to the event.

The briefing focused on the Biden-Harris Administration’s support for HBCUS, which has included nearly $6 billion in cumulative investment through the Department of Education. Other topics included the re-establishment of the White House Initiatives on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for HBCUs and Black Americans.

Dr. Matthew DeForrest, interim director of the Edward E. Crutchfield Center for Integrated Studies and professor of English, nominated DeBoles to attend after consulting with a few of her professors.

“Jayla is a powerful example of how her work in the classroom and her work outside the classroom, in projects like the Charlotte Racial Justice Consortium, prepare our students holistically,” said DeForrest. “It isn’t just about what you learn in a book of for a test. It is about how you can apply what you’ve learned in a more complex and nuanced environment.”

Thanks to her dedication inside and outside of the classroom, DeBoles has been able to have several encounters with the White House. In 2021, she attended a similar briefing with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge. She also attended the Vice President’s press conference in Durham where Harris discussed the administration’s commitment to lowering healthcare costs through the inflation reduction act.

During Thursday’s briefing, Harris spoke about the need for student journalists and leaders from HBCUs to communicate their story to a broader audience.

“Seeing two HBCU grads in critical positions in the White House are clear inspirations for our students who can see themselves in them and in their successes.”

Harris is a 1986 graduate of Howard University, and Bottoms graduated from Florida A&M University in 1994.

Outside of the classroom, DeBoles serves as the vice president of the Student Government Association, president of Lambda Pi Eta and president of JCSU’s Transfer Student Association. She says serving in these leadership roles on campus prepares her to participate in activities like these.

“I’m always leading and paving the way for others who stand with and behind me,” she said. “I am always willing to ask the questions that the community needs answers to.”

DeBoles, who attended the briefing in person between appearances alongside her fellow SGA executive cabinet at the CIAA Tournament in Baltimore, will prepare a briefing that she will share with the White House next week.

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