North Carolina A&T has won another national championship, this time the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC), an academic competition for students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The four-student Aggies team showed its academic prowess in the dayslong competition by quickly, accurately and consistently answering questions about history, science, literature, religion, arts and pop culture.
It was N.C. A&T’s first title in the Honda event after participating for 26 years in a competition that’s been going on since 1989. The Aggies have been crowned national champions in athletic competitions before, including three straight wins in the Celebration Bowl, considered the national championship of HBCU football, and the women’s United States Bowling Congress intercollegiate championship in 2015. So this is a proud moment for Aggie Nation.
“This win means so much to me and the university. After losing in the first round of the playoffs two years ago and not being able to compete last year, it feels so great to finally reach the top,” said team captain Malkam Hawkins. “This is the first time that North Carolina A&T has won the tournament. I am so proud to have led the team that won the university its first national championship.”
Hawkins, a junior majoring in electrical engineering from Charlotte, North Carolina, is joined on the team by Frances Kendrick, a freshman nursing major from Raleigh, North Carolina; Mitchell Wilson, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Zebulon, North Carolina; and Samara Daniels, a junior majoring in criminal justice from Ayden, North Carolina.
Since the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge was established, more than 125,000 scholars have competed in the academic tournament and Honda has awarded more than $14 million in grants to fund tuition and book scholarships, student development initiatives, endowment and development campaigns, as well as facilities and equipment. Eighty-six percent of participating HBCUs provide student scholarships with the challenge’s grant funds, and over the past three years, nearly 60% of students have built mentor-mentee relationships from the program. In winning the Honda title, N.C. A&T received a $75,000 institutional grant.
“We recognize the unique and critical role that HBCUs play in providing higher education and opportunities for advancement. Through the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, HBCU students have been able to dream big, showcase their academic talents and make friends for life. For more than three decades, Honda has been proud to continue the HCASC tradition of celebrating HBCU excellence,” said Alexandra Warnier, manager of corporate social responsibility at American Honda.
There were more than 300 students from 64 HBCUs that participated in this year’s challenge, which was conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Each year, Honda awards more than $390,000 in institutional grants to participating HBCUs. Runner-up Florida A&M was awarded a $30,000 institutional grant, while the third- and fourth-place finishers – Morehouse College and Alabama A&M – each received $20,000 grants. Rounding out the eight teams that competed in the finals, held April 18-20, were Bowie State, Lincoln University, North Carolina Central and Oakwood University.
“Despite the pandemic, we’re thrilled that we were able to hold the competition virtually to ensure the safety of students, school officials and volunteers. Honda congratulates North Carolina A&T State University for its impressive achievement and applauds all of the student competitors and coaches who made this year’s HCASC national championship tournament an exciting experience,” said Warnier.
The countless days and nights of preparation paid off for the N.C. A&T squad.
“Our team mantra is, ‘One question, one round, one game at a time.’ We tried to stay in the moment and not let a few missed questions or bad rounds snowball into a loss, and I think we did a very good job of maintaining that focus throughout this year’s competition,” said Bryon Turman, the team’s coach and a professor at the school.
Schools that have been consistently good over the years and have made it to the final eight the most frequently in the 32 years of the challenge are Morehouse (22 years), a four-time national champ; Florida A&M (20 years), an eight-time national champ; Tuskegee University (18 years); Oakwood University (13 years); Howard University (13 years); Alabama State University (12 years); and North Carolina Central (11 years). For this year’s competition, it was Alabama A&M’s first time as a semifinalist, Bowie State’s second time in the final eight and Lincoln’s first time in the quarterfinals.
Honda has supported the success and dreams of HBCU students through initiatives such as the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge and Honda Battle of the Bands. These programs have provided students with scholarships, mentoring and networking opportunities with their peers from other HBCUs.