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How Howard University Leaves Its Mark on Washington, D.C.

Howard University’s mission is to educate Black students from around the world, but the university’s goals extend beyond just its students.

Founders Library at Howard University. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Howard University’s mission is to educate Black students from around the world, but the university’s goals extend beyond just its students. Partially due to its central location, Howard has been able to make several economic, healthcare and volunteer-related impacts on D.C. communities.

In 2019, Howard’s partnership with D.C. Small Business Develop Center (DCSBDC) was able to secure approximately $12 million in loans to assist local small businesses such as Potomac Foods and Beverages and Plum Good

Howard serves as DCSBDC’s network headquarters and contributes mainly by offering small business counseling services, workshops, loan package reviews and industry research. In 2018, the center hosted nearly 31 workshops across all wards with about 520 people in attendance in total. 

Since 2020, the School of Business (SOB) has offered free tax assistance and counseling to many D.C. residents through the Howard University Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. About 500 volunteers advise D.C. families that earn $56,000 or less annually. The services provided have enabled local residents to acquire more than $650,000 in refunds. Information on the exact number of residents has not been disclosed.

Along with free tax services and other tax-related assistance, Howard has also contributed to the empowerment of D.C. youth through a myriad of after-school and summer programs. 

The Howard SOB also sponsors a summer camp for high school students to promote careers in insurance, accounting, entrepreneurship and actuarial sciences. The summer camp allows interested high school students to interact and learn from Howard University SOB professors in four main tracks: accounting, information systems, actuarial science and entrepreneurship.

The dean of SOB did not respond to our request for comment in time for publication.

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Howard University’s campus also houses a public charter STEM-focused middle school known as the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS2), where students from every ward of the city, however, mostly Ward 8, receive a quality education that focuses on “a cohesive learning model based on real-world applications.” 

Another significant initiative undertaken by the university was the creation of the Karsh STEM Scholars Program in 2017, previously known as the Bison STEM Scholars Program. This premier program is known to assist selected minority students in their pursuits of a Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D.. 

The director of the program, Ronald Smith, told The Hilltop that the program “was founded by President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick and Provost Dr. Anthony Wutoh as they were very much concerned with the lack of minorities who earn a Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D. and went on to become leaders in STEM careers.” 

The program has a volunteer partnership with the middle school on Howard’s campus where Karsh STEM Scholars mentor the students who may need support in mathematics and sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics. 

Howard’s Center for Urban Progress (CUP) seeks to increase awareness around the use of technology around D.C. The CUP and Opportunities Industrialization Center of DC (OIC DC) began a technology training program known as the Youth Tech-A+. The 28-week program taught students computer concepts and assisted them in seeking internships at local technology-based companies. 

Apart from supporting D.C. residents and students academically, Howard University also launched volunteer opportunities for Howard students to directly make an impact on the city. 

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Joseph Aubee, a graduate student of microbiology at the College of Medicine, told the Hilltop, “some of the means through which Howard University engages and contributes to the Washington, D.C., community involves the Alternative Spring Break and Day of Service initiatives.”

Hosted by Howard’s WHUR radio station in collaboration with the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Howard University Alternative Spring Break (HUASB) program is a service-oriented program that encourages students, faculty and staff to spend their Spring Break serving communities in need of assistance. 

According to a public statement released by the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, through HUASB, students were able to volunteer at many D.C.-based nonprofits and other service-oriented organizations to lead an effort to combat homelessness and HIV in the D.C. metro area. 

In another statement by the chapel, students volunteer to serve food to those who can’t afford food on their own, and they work alongside other students who are homeless in order to increase awareness about the costs of gentrification.

Nya Parker, a senior biology major and executive student director of the HUASB, told the Hilltop that, “the program allows Howard University to exemplify our motto ‘In Truth and Service’ by serving the D.C. community. Howard has a huge impact on the D.C. community by using the resources of the city and it is important to us that we show our appreciation to the natives for accepting us into the community.” 

Through her lens as a student, she also stated that, “for myself, Alternative Spring Break has refined my purpose in life, challenged me to escape my comfort zone, and humbled my idea of a student leader.”

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Day of Service is a short-term event where students dedicate their day to also serving the D.C. community. In 2021, a group of students volunteering on the Day of Service paid a visit to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, where they were able to not only volunteer by assisting in park beautification, but also learn more about environmental justice. 

More recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Howard University Hospital, in addition to the School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy and School of Dentistry have all made strides in uplifting the D.C. community. 

Through the American Dental Association’s “Give Kids a Smile” (GKAS) program, the College of Dentistry provides free dental care services such as regular screenings and preventive treatments to children from lower-income families around the city. Each year, the College of Dentistry adopts one or two elementary schools and offers those children free dental treatments to promote dental hygiene early on in children’s lives. 

Dr. Karl Thompson, an associate professor of microbiology at the College of Medicine, told The Hilltop that Howard University has been instrumental in increasing vaccination rates around D.C..

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, the Howard University Faculty Practice Plan launched a COVID-19 testing area to provide residents from D.C.’s Ward 7 and 8 with access to free testing. The testing area is located at 4414 Benning Road NE, Suite 2400, Washington, D.C., at the new Benning center

Last September, the College of Medicine partnered with D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in the city. The collaboration prompted medical students to serve as ambassadors and spread vaccine awareness to push students and their parents to get the vaccines. 

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Dr. Thompson also said, “the community outreach in terms of vaccination rates were helpful in making people more comfortable with the vaccines, especially in the underserved wards of the city, and making it more available to everyone.”

Moreover, the university partnered with the “Black Coalition Against COVID-19,” to deliver specific COVID-19 online guides to prevent infection, alleviate symptoms and overall increase awareness and accessibility to the residents of D.C..

Aubee finally noted that “Howard University provides a solid, exceptional, well-rounded educational and real-world experiences to both students and faculty and continues to provide the platform for both students and faculty to rise to the occasion and ‘speak up, speak out, and get in the way’ of injustices plaguing our community.” 

Copy edited by: N’dia Webb

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