Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. and Lester Booker., the project manager for communications operations at General Motors touted the fourth year of the popular Discover the Unexpected Journalism Fellowship program (DTU) that was developed by Chevrolet in 2016 as an HBCU fellowship program.(Courtesy photo)

During a fellowship luncheon and fireside chat at the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) convention in Cincinnati, Lester Booker, Jr., the project manager for communications operations at General Motors explained to publishers and others why it’s important for the automaker and other Fortune 500 companies to invest in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUS).

“There are so many great men and women that are being developed and minds that are being cared for, cultivated inside of the schools and they don’t necessarily have the recruitment bandwidth and their career centers don’t have the relationships established to actually open up access to larger Fortune 500 companies,” Booker said.

“So, I think it is imperative that if we want to grab diverse talent, specifically in the African American community,” he said during the conversation with NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., on Thursday, June 27 at the Cincinnati Westin Hotel.

Chavis and Booker touted the fourth year of the popular Discover the Unexpected Journalism Fellowship program (DTU) that was developed by Chevrolet in 2016 as an HBCU fellowship program.

“It’s purpose was to create and share optimistic stories while reinforcing the brand’s continued commitment to the African American community,” Booker said.

Chevrolet awards each of the six DTU fellows a $10,000 scholarship and a $5,000 stipend. The students form two teams of three people, and each team has access to an all-new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer during their reporting assignments.

Since 2016, Chevrolet has awarded in excess of $400,000 in scholarships and stipends in the annual program.

This year’s fellows are Elae Hill of North Carolina A&T; Sharon Joy Washington of Florida A&M; Tyla Barnes of Hampton University; Tedarius Abrams of Bethune-Cookman University; Emani Nichols of Morehouse College; and Miana Massey of Howard University.

The fellows will work this summer with NNPA member newspapers the Atlanta Voice, Chicago Crusader, Washington Informer, and Houston Forward Times.

The program includes a boot camp which Lester said immerses the fellows in “all things Chevrolet.”

They also meet leaders from Chevrolet and NNPA publishers.

“The program started with Howard University in 2016,” Booker said.

“We increased the reach of the program in 2017 to Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta …based on the overwhelming response, the online submission process was opened to all HBCU students in their sophomore through senior years with an interest in journalism, communications, mass media, or visual arts,” he said.

The fireside chat also included a video featuring DJ Envy, the famed disc jockey and music producer whose co-host of the popular syndicated radio show, “The Breakfast Club.’

Musician and author Fonzworth Bentley serves as the fellows’ Road Trip Advisor and both he and Envy are HBCU graduates.

“It’s definitely important for young African Americans to have time with influential leaders that they aspire to be like,” Booker said.

Since the DTU program’s establishment, Chavis said everyone has seen some of the best and brightest students.

Booker noted the success of Jordan Fisher, a 2017 graduate of Clark Atlanta whose began working for the media team on Stacey Abrams’ campaign for Georgia governor.

Fisher is currently a media manager and advisor for CNN political commentator and attorney Angela Rye’s political advocacy firm, IMPACT Strategies.

The program has also gained recognition by the Mosaic Awards panel which selected DTU as the winner of the Mosaic Award for Multicultural Online/Interactive Campaign.

The award recognizes campaigns that are executed primarily through interactive marketing targeted toward multicultural markets.

Booker said GM has other partnerships that reach HBCU audiences.

“Through our Corporate Giving efforts, we’ve provided financial support to both Howard University and North Carolina A&T,” he said.

General Motors also has several other partnerships that will include an AutoDrive Challenge and a Buick Come Up Challenge.

“General Motors is a member of the billion-dollar roundtable, and we have been involved as one of the 28 companies who spend $1 billion with diverse-owned companies,” Booker said.

“We have an HBCU White House partnership … we’ve actually participated in a conference and met with presidents of many HBCUs to talk about how to develop these pipelines of talent to make sure that we’re actually creating a pipeline of talent for entry-level positions,” he said.

To learn more about the DTU program, visit  www.nnpa.org/chevydtu