Empowering 150 HBCU Students at SXSW

As our plane departed Atlanta for Austin, a single question nagged me: “How are we going to make the most of this for the students?” Our objective was to play a part in the HBCU@SXSW program, which aims to “diversify the innovation, entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem for all…by bringing the smartest and brightest minority college students to SXSW.” And to be completely honest with you, that felt like a daunting, crazy, ambitious thing—one I was excited about, for sure, but also anxious about as well.

Bringing 150 HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) students to one of the world’s largest conferences is a huge effort that requires precision, dedication, and vision. Thankfully, Atlanta’s Opportunity Hub, whose mission is to build inclusive innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment ecosystems for all, exhibited those characteristics and more to make a weekend that so many people will remember for a lifetime.

More than 1,000 students applied to be flown to Austin and immersed in a weekend of intense programming designed to prepare them for the transition from college life to full-time employment and/or entrepreneurship. The weekend offered networking opportunities for the students with some of the world’s most innovative tech companies, discussions with professionals and career coaches, and a surprise visit from Spike Lee. Mailchimp was one of several companies who, through Opportunity Hub, sponsored students to attend this life-changing weekend.

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