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The Collegiate 100 of Cheyney University Makes Great Impression at National Conference

June 15, 2014

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Pictured l. to r. President Thomas McRae, Jr., Branden Ellis, Virshae Campbell, Terrell Grayson, and Craig Brown-Dickens, delegates from the Cheyney University Collegiate 100, in Florida

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Five student delegates from the Cheyney University Collegiate 100 represented CU at the 28th National Conference of the 100 Black Men of America in Hollywood, Florida June 11, 2014.  This year's theme was “Education in an Era of Change.”  The student delegates, Craig Brown-Dickens, Virshae Campbell, Branden Ellis, Terrell Grayson, and President Thomas McRae, Jr., assisted by a matching funds grant from the Cheyney University Foundation, not only took full advantage of the workshops and mentoring opportunities at the international conference, but made their presence felt in very big ways.  

Brown-Dickens, a member of the Cheyney University Concert Choir, brought the banquet hall audience to its feet as he gave stirring performances of the Star-Spangled Banner and the Negro National Anthem to kick off the Report From The Youth event at the conference. Brown-Dickens, a senior, would later further distinguish himself from the other international C100 participants by singing at an evening event with singer-songwriter-producer "Joe" (Joseph Lewis Thomas) whose album "My Name Is Joe" reached #2 on the Billboard 200.

C100 President McRae spoke eloquently before 1,000 people about his experiences of being shot, abandoned, and shuffled between 22 foster homes before finding a family to adopt him at 17 years of age. The crowd listened intently as he described his perilous journey. "There's a difference between grace, luck, and mercy," he said. McRae then described how, through the grace of God, he has survived and, with the luck of finding love through his adopted family, has emerged as an advocate for mercy for youth in foster care systems.  The crowd gave him a standing ovation. While Thomas has spoken at many events, on television, and at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s home church), his efforts are not for himself, but to assure that he preserve the legacy of our leaders and "keep the Dream of Malcolm X and Dr. King alive."

"Thomas is just one example of the kind of students we serve at Cheyney," remarked Professor Geri R. Vital, adviser to the Collegiate 100 at Cheyney. The faculty and staff at Cheyney make it their mission to find and pay special attention to students who believe they can achieve more than what statistics say they can. Thomas is a very exceptional young man, but his story is not unique. My wife and I frequently learn of students who are not only the first in their families to attend college, but were actually homeless except for their dorm rooms, but, to paraphrase the late Dr. Maya Angelou, they rise, they rise, they rise."

During the four-day conference, CU's Collegiate 100 delegates participated actively in the leadership, professional development, and peer mentoring sessions offered specifically for college students and served as role models for the younger (K-12) conference participants. Incidentally six middle school and high school students who represented Philadelphia in the National African-American History Challenge won first place in both the junior and senior divisions as Cheyney's C100 delegates cheered them on. The C100 students plan to expand their K-12 mentorship in hopes of helping more children learn that it's cool to be smart.

Information about the Collegiate 100 or Philadelphia K-12 youth programs is available at www.100blackmenphilly.org.