(STX, May 5, 2023). A special invitation from the Biden-Harris administration was extended to The University of the Virgin Islands Association of Black Journalists (UVIABJ), and President Michael Bell readily accepted on behalf of the group.
With only a 72-hour notice, the graduating senior met a unique challenge to fly to the White House in Washington, D.C., and meet with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Michael was part of an elite group of student journalists from HBCUs nationwide to participate in the fourth WH HBCU Student Press Briefing.
Participants were vetted and briefed and underwent security clearances before being granted access to the event.
The event was held three times before, but this was the first in-person press briefing.
Erica P. Loewe, Director of African American Media, The White House, added a special segment to the session.
Unlike the other virtual events, this event featured a special appearance by a white house official; VP Harris was introduced to the young reporters by Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement.
She posted about the event on her social media.
Michael discussed his visit with UVI Voice 2.0 and stated, “My time in Washington was quite the experience. It was my first time stepping onto the White House grounds. Meeting many HBCU Students who were aspiring journalists was amazing to see.”
He continued, “The trip was even more exciting because I only had mere hours to prepare to actually leave to head to Washington DC.”
He spoke about other students he met at the press briefing, “I had the opportunity to meet Mike Spencer, a student from Savannah State who also participated in SRPI [Southern Regional Print Institute], in which UVIABJ students had just won 10 awards.”
When asked about the experience of traveling alone to D.C. to represent UVI student journalists, Michael explained, “[visiting] the White House was something I will treasure forever. Getting the chance to actually sit and listen and see for myself, the actual vice president of the United States… while also getting the opportunity to meet with Keisha Lance Bottoms… I could not have been more excited to have been representing my university in our nation’s capital. After all, UVI is the only HBCU in the Caribbean.”
The UVI Comm unit received an email on Saturday, February 18, with a required response for Monday, February 21.
The UVI Office of Public Relations and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences worked swiftly with the Communication unit to secure travel arrangements for Bell, who would represent the UVI Association of Black Journalists as the first and only student affiliate of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in the Caribbean.
According to a source close to the situation, Tamika Thomas Williams and Lois Rivera in the PR office on the St. Thomas campus demonstrated their expertise and quickly gained support from officials at UVI who promoted the significance of the hurried trip.
Personnel on the St. Croix campus were also excited and pledged to ensure arrangements were in place for the journey.
“Michael demonstrated the true characteristics of a dedicated journalist when he agreed to fly to take this spontaneous trip and represent UVI,” said Dr. Sharon Honore, faculty advisor to UVIABJ.
“Considering the short ‘turn around’ time and the fact that he had to travel more than 3200 miles with such short notice, it was an incredible display of integrity and commitment to journalism,” she emphasized.
Accepting the invitation proved beneficial, and the Communication unit secured a place among aspiring young professionals.
Loewe sent a follow-up to the participating institutions and said, “The students who joined are a clear example of why HBCUs are so invaluable, and we look forward to continuing these briefings in the months to come.”
Watch this space, USVI, because Comm students at UVI look forward to receiving and accepting more invitations from the White House.