April (2017)– Oakwood University is the big winner — of bragging rights and a lot of money.
That’s because they just won the 2017 Honda Campus All-Star Challenge on April 10. They had to beat out teams from over 80 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the academic competition, showing their knowledge of history, science, literature, religion, the arts and popular culture.
As the winners of the 28th Annual HCASC, the Oakwood team won $75,000 to support their school.
Oakwood University’s 2017 Honda Campus All-Star Challenge team was composed of four senior students: Caleb Briggs, a history major, Sesly Huerfano, a political science major, and two biomedical sciences majors, Olivia Campbell and Joshua Nwaoha.
“When we won, I was in disbelief,” said Campbell. “All the stress, tension, and all other feelings left my body in the form of tears. We were extremely happy and relieved that our hard work paid off.”
Honda’s All-Star Challenge has been active since 1989. This year’s win marks the third time Oakwood University has placed first in Honda’s Campus All-Star Challenge. #killingit
The runners up didn’t do too badly either: The second place team, from Bowie State University, earned a $30,000 grant. Florida A&M University and Tuskegee University’s teams, who placed third and fourth, both received $20,000 awards.
The students’ path to their HCASC victory was long and challenging. When the All-Star season began in the fall, there were teams from 89 schools vying for the number one spot. It wasn’t until April that Oakwood, along with 48 of the other top teams (known as the “Great 48”), gathered in Torrance, Calif., for the HCASC National Championship.
Nwaoha stressed that participating in the HCASC involved serious commitment and training. “In preparation for competition season, I went to practice (we had practice three times a week), plus individual practice time with our coach and learned as much as I could outside of those settings,” Nwaoha said.
The Oakwood team emphasized the camaraderie they developed. “The best part of this whole experience was the friends I made. We started this experience as strangers who became friends that eventually became a true family,” said Briggs.
Briggs also noted the role Oakwood University’s coach, Dr. Rennae Elliott, played in his HSASC journey. “I met Dr. Elliot at a club fair held at the skating rink handing out papers with trivia questions,” said Briggs. “After I had filled out the paper, she told me to stop by for practice at Friday, and the rest is history.”
Reflecting on her team’s success, Dr. Elliot said in a press release, “I’ve seen firsthand how the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge changes students’ lives by building their confidence, and giving them a place to belong on campus. We have a whole network of people back home and across campus who have supported us throughout the tournament; it truly has been a team effort.”
Nwaoha particularly stressed the encouraging environment and community Oakwood University has provided. “Attending an HBCU has impacted my education in a unique way. It has allowed me to witness the intelligence of the black community in all aspects of academia. It has showed me that we can indeed thrive in this world.”
Honda also acknowledged the contributions of specific individuals. Robert Batten of Bowie State University, who has coached students for the HCASC for 11 years, was awarded Coach of the Year. Another honoree was Danian Medearis, a student at North Carolina Central University, who received the Ernest C. Jones Sportsperson Award.
Huerfano noted the cultural importance of both Oakwood’s win and the All-Star challenge in general. “HBCUs can produce amazing academic scholars too,” said Huerfano. “The Honda Campus All-Star Challenge showcases the excellence, and the competition is just an added bonus.”
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