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Grambling State Teams with IBM to Address Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

Grambling State will work with IBM to establish a Cybersecurity Leadership Center, giving students and faculty access to IBM training, software multiple cloud environments, and certifications at no cost.

Grambling, La. — September 22, 2022 — During the National HBCU Week Conference convened by the U.S. Department of Education and the White House and currently being held in Washington D.C., Grambling State University (GSU) announced a collaboration with IBM to help establish a virtual GSU Cybersecurity Leadership Center.

Grambling State is one of 20 schools working with IBM to create Cybersecurity Leadership Centers.

With 500,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., the need for expertise is critical: According to a recent IBM Security study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored and analyzed by IBM, insufficiently staffed organizations average $550,000 more in breach costs than those that state they are sufficiently staffed.

“The Department of Computer Science and Digital Technologies at Grambling State University is proud to partner with IBM in a collaboration that will offer training in new security technologies and skills to our students and thereby produce well-trained Cybersecurity professionals,” said Dr. Prasanthi Sreekumari, interim chair of the Department of Computer Science and Cloud Technologies at Grambling State.

Through IBM’s collaboration, faculty and students at participating schools will have access to coursework, lectures, immersive training experiences, certifications, IBM cloud, and professional development resources, all at no cost to them. This includes access to:

• Cybersecurity curricula: IBM will develop for each participating HBCU, a customized IBM Security Learning Academy portal – an IBM client offering – including courses designed to help the university enhance its cybersecurity education portfolio. In addition, IBM will continue to give access to IBM SkillsBuild.

• Immersive learning experience: HBCUs will have an opportunity to benefit from IBM Security’s Command Center, through which they can experience a highly realistic, simulated cyberattack, designed to prepare them and train them on response techniques. Moreover, HBCUs’ faculty will have access to consultation sessions with IBM technical personnel on cybersecurity.

Software: Multiple IBM Security premier enterprise security products hosted in the IBM Cloud

• Professional development: Forums to exchange best practices, learn from IBM experts, and discover IBM internships and job openings

“Collaborations between academia and the private sector can help students prepare for success. That’s especially true for HBCUs because their mission is so vital,” said Justina Nixon-Saintil, Vice President, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG. “The Cybersecurity Leadership Centers we’re co-creating with Historically Black College and Universities epitomize our commitment to the Black community and STEM education; it also builds on our pledge to train 150,000 people in cybersecurity over three years.”

About Grambling State University

Combining the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college, Grambling State University fosters an environment where students develop into the trailblazers, thought leaders, and innovators of the next generation. 

As one of the country’s top producers of African American graduates in Computer Information Science, we take pride in preparing graduates that are unafraid to forge new paths and challenge what’s possible. 

A historically black university founded in 1901 in Grambling, Louisiana, the institution offers 46 undergraduate and graduate academic programs on its 590-acre campus and is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life. For more information, visit

Four Grambling State students chosen for Moguls in the Making competition

Pictured (l-r) are GSU “Moguls in the Making” team members Brendan Nzoma, Katrice McMullen, Alesia Jackson and Darielle Clark.

Grambling, LA. – September 15, 2022 – A team of four Grambling State University students recently arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, on an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the “Moguls in the Making” competition presented by The Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s (TMCF) Innovation and Entrepreneur (I&E) program, Ally Financial and the Sean Anderson Foundation.

TMCF and Ally Financial selected 15 HBCUs to participate in the “Moguls in the Making” competition to find the best and brightest entrepreneurial minds.

GSU students include education major Katrice McMullen, Brendan Nzoma, a CIS major minoring in Data Analytics), history major Darielle Clark, and CIS major Alesia Jackson (CIS).

The competing teams will be tasked with developing solutions to economic problems facing various industries and then pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges composed of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.

The selection of teams started with interested students submitting applications and then participating in virtual interviews explaining why they were interested in the competition and entrepreneurship.

“We also had to present a platform on why we thought Grambling students would be a good fit and actually benefit from being in the program,” said McMullen, the lead student for GSU’s team.

Applicants also had to record videos doing a short speech about themselves and then were chosen from there.

“It’s crazy because none of us really knew each other well before we got into this program,” McMullen said. “I am not a business major or anything like that, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to be in that kind of environment. But I saw the opportunity and read up on it and thought it would be cool to work to come up with plans for the betterment of another community. That’s how we really got into it.”

The teams know they will be working on project development for the city of Charlotte and creating things that will help the city draw different people and industries to the area.

“We’ll be working on some ideas the city can use to help the community and help the city move forward,” McMullen said.

McCullen admitted she was surprised when she found out she had been selected for the competition.

“I found out at the end of June or July, and I was shocked,” McMullen said. “That’s not saying that I didn’t think I couldn’t do it, but I knew there were very many talented and qualified applicants. I was shocked and excited that I was given the opportunity to show not only what I know but the things that I can accomplish with other people that have like mindsets.”

While they didn’t know each other well, some of GSU’s team members were at least acquainted before being teamed for the competition.

“I actually used to hang with Darielle at the bookstore Back to the Basics over in the village,” McMullen said. “We’d both go to ‘Freestyle Fridays’ there and sing, read poetry, showcase artists, and that kind of thing. I didn’t really know Brendan but we found out we were both Greek organization members, so that was a connection that we didn’t know we had.”

Nzoma also had a previous connection with Clark because they’re both from Detroit.

“We were both part of the Midnight Golf program,” Nzoma said.

Midnight Golf is a Michigan-based program dedicated to equipping determined young adults through life skills training, proactive coaching, long-term mentoring and the discipline of golf in order to succeed in college, in their careers and beyond.

“Darielle is a year younger than me, but I first met her through that Midnight Golf program up in Michigan, and I think all four of us will be good and successful teammates working together,” Nzoma said.

McMullen intends to take what she’s learned at GSU and help her team qualify for winnings.

“The slogan ‘Everybody is Somebody’ at GSU is true with this in that we’re being given an opportunity to show our skills and give back,” McMullen said. “I feel like I can do things in my community to give back and help those around me. So GSU has taught me how to be somebody as far as going out and doing whatever I put my mind to.”

When the students arrive in Charlotte, they’ll first attend workshops before the actual competition is held on Saturday and Sunday.

“Then we’ll find out who the winners are on Sunday and we’re hoping to at least place in the top three,” McMullen said.

Nzoma said he’s also looking forward to competing for the prize money while proving himself along the way.

“I think we have a good group,” Nzoma said. “I think I’m a good leader with good networking skills and understanding, and I think that will be very beneficial to our project. I’m looking forward to doing everything I can to help our team go to Charlotte, succeed, and earn that prize money. It’s a great opportunity we need to take advantage of. I’m looking forward to going up there and showing what we can do.”

69th Miss Grambling State looks to expand platform of Service, Leadership, Legacy

Fifth-generation Gramblinite plans to become first medical doctor in her family

Kelli Copes will be crowned the 69th Miss Grambling State University in a Coronation ceremony Thursday, September 15, 2022, in T.H. Harris Auditorium on GSU’s campus. (GSU Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing/CarltonHamlin).

Grambling, LA – September 12, 2022 – Kelli Copes will be crowned as the 69th Miss Grambling State University in a 7 p.m. coronation ceremony on Thursday in T.H. Harris Auditorium, and the junior biology pre-med major said the event will be a continuation of lifelong dreams that have always been focused around “The G.”

“My parents both graduated from GSU and I never considered going anywhere else,” Copes said. “My dad (Dr. Joe Copes) was a geography professor and Title III director here until his retirement in 2007. And my mom (Carmen Copes) worked in IT. My sister graduated from here with the second-highest GPA in 2007. My uncle [also] works and graduated from here. It was always going to be the ‘G’ for me when I was growing up. I’ve never seen myself anywhere else. I knew Grambling would present me with the opportunities I needed, so I went with Grambling. There was never any question about going anywhere else.”

Copes isn’t the first member of her family to run for Miss GSU — her older sister also ran for the title.

“She was unsuccessful, so it was a little bit more personal for me to make sure I brought it home,” Copes said of earning the title.

Copes said her platform to become Miss GSU consisted of three parts — “The Lady, The Leader, and The Legacy.”

“The Legacy portion of my campaign has been geared toward what I’ve done since becoming a student at GSU and the fact I am a legacy from here,” Copes said. “The Lady part is just about me continuing to serve the Grambling community with grace, as I’ve done since beginning my journey here at Grambling.”

“Being a leader, every Grambling student’s journey is one they’ll remember forever, and over the last three years I’ve tried to be well-rounded and involved,” Copes continued. “I’ve hosted voter registration drives and blood pressure checks, and I’ve hosted ‘Buzz Talks’ to help my fellow students. I plan on continuing and building on all of that as Miss Grambling State.”

Copes said she hopes to help pull university administration and students together in her role as Miss GSU.

“There seems to be a disconnect at times and I’d like to help with that as well as increase student engagement,” Copes said. “Since COVID, the level of student involvement at GSU has significantly dropped, so I’d like to boost those numbers back up. I’d like to start monthly ‘Queen’s Corner’ sessions to keep students actively involved. I like it to be a video podcast – something fellow students will like watching.”

Copes has another goal she said she’d like to work on and try to make happen.

“As a product of GSU Nursery School, I’d like to push for the reopening of the school for children of faculty, students, and staff,” Copes said.

She said the “Legacy” part of her platform is simply upholding the family tradition.

“I wanted to show that by attending Grambling State University and to help my fellow students realize that what they do here will leave a lasting impact. I’ve been creating my legacy since putting my foot on the university’s rich soil as a GSU student and I won’t stop. My charge to my fellow students is for them to consider how they will leave their legacy and to make it a great one for both themselves and GSU.”

Copes’ 3.96 GPA in Pre-Med has her on track toward realizing her career goal of becoming a doctor.

“I would be the first doctor in my family,” Copes said. “That’s another longtime goal I’m going to make happen.”

Copes said she’s experienced many special moments in her time as a GSU student but that at least one stands out a little more than others.

“Serving as a student representative for the University Master Planning committee, I’ve expressed my concerns about the lab facilities in the STEM building here — old Carver Hall,” Copes said. “And seeing those get upgraded made me feel good, even if there were plans to do that before I became part of the planning committee. “

“I’ve always wanted to help my fellow students and seeing that happen made me feel I had been able to do that in some small way. And that’s what I intend to keep on doing as Miss Grambling. Knowing I’m helping someone is always a special moment for me.”

Efforts of alumnus challenged inclusion, developed musicians, inspired thousands

Pictured is the former Alcee Fortier High School in New Orleans, more recently known as Lusher Charter School, that will be renamed in honor of GSU alumnus Elijah Brimmer Jr. on Saturday. (Photo courtesy NOLA Public Schools)

By T. Scott Boatright/University Communications

A Grambling State University graduate is set to be honored with “The Ultimate Honor Event” early on Saturday.

At noon Saturday, the late Elijah Brimmer Jr., a product of the former Alcee Fortier High School in New Orleans, will have that school’s building, which now houses Lusher Charter School, renamed in his honor.

The building is located at 7315 Willow St. in New Orleans.

Hired in 1978, Brimmer was among the second wave of Black teachers to integrate Fortier High School, according to a petition that sought to have the building named in Brimmer’s honor.  

That petition noted that Brimmer “worked to change the systemic racism within Mardi Gras parades” that affected Black high school bands at the time. 

Pictured is Elijah Brimmer Jr. during his days as a member of GSU World Famed Tiger Marching Band.

Fortier alumnus Norman Bell, in a comment on an online petition asking for the school to be renamed in Brimmer’s honor, remembered Brimmer fondly. 

“Mr. Brimmer was an inspiration to thousands. He inspired not only band members, but the entire student body was challenged to succeed because of the pride of inclusion he created. This honor would be well deserved,” Bell wrote. 

After Brimmer’s death in 2019, Mayor LaToya Cantrell honored him with a post made on social media.

 “Mr. Brimmer has played a pivotal role in the lives of our musicians and culture in so many positive ways,” Cantrell wrote. “His years of service to the uptown community will never be forgotten.”

Members of the Elijah Brimmer Jr. Committee, which worked to have the building named after Brimmer, said that Brimmer worked countless hours on and off the clock, dedicating his life to educating his students in instrumental, concert, and marching band music. 

Brimmer was born June 24, 1945, in New Orleans and was raised by his parents — Elijah Brimmer, Sr. and Agnes Landry Brimmer, in the city’s Uptown Garden District.

A graduate of New Orleans’ Booker T. Washington High School, Brimmer’s musical abilities earned him a four-year scholarship to attend GSU, where he was a member of the World Famed Marching Tiger Band.

After graduating from GSU with a bachelor’s degree in music, Brimmer went back home to New Orleans, where he worked as a student teacher and wrote sheet music for several schools in the district.’

Brimmer worked at New Orleans’ George Washington Carver High School before receiving a full-time position at Alcee Fortier High School in 1978.

He is said to have faced many challenges dealing with students from different wards and four different New Orleans housing projects: Calliope, Melpomene, Magnolia and St. Thomas, especially when gangs/drug sales territories began to form in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Pictured is the obituary photo for the late Elijah Brimmer Jr. (Photo courtesy of Rhodes Funeral Home).

Brimmer is said to have used music as a way of bridging those gaps by focusing on a common goal of students wanting to be part of the best marching band in uptown New Orleans.

His above and beyond approach was evident when he provided transportation for students to and from band practice and after football and basketball games as well as carnival parades by picking them up and dropping them off at public bus stops. 

He headed the Fortier Band Summer Camp for 20 years, with community members calling him a father to the fatherless, a mentor, a role model, advocate, visionary and leader not only in the school system but also as a pillar in the community.

James Henderson was in the drum corps in GSU’s World Famed Tiger Marching Band when he first met Brimmer, who was a flutist in the band. Henderson later worked often with Brimmer when Henderson was Chief Financial Officer for the New Orleans Public Schools System from 1975-97.

“It’s an outstanding and well-deserved honor,” Henderson said of the building being renamed in Brimmer’s honor. “He built one of the best music programs at Fortier — he put the school on the map. “That school took a lot of pride in that band he built.”

Brimmer’s band at Fortier became one of the premiere bands during carnival season in New Orleans, serving as one of the lead-off bands for some one of the city’s top Mardi Gras parades like Bachhaus and the Krewe of Freret.

“The Krewe of Freret (parade) started Uptown on the street in front of Fortier High School,” Henderson said. “They would march out of their school with pride like you wouldn’t believe. They would march straight out of the school into the formation of the parade. 

“Just to see them in that parade was something to see — something special, just like he was.”

Mental Health mural rises like phoenix on campus of GSU

Pictured is the mural presented Thursday in the new Quad Living Learning Room on the GSU campus. (Photo by Carlton Hamlin/University Communications)

By T. Scott Boatright/University Communications

Grambling State University has a new Quad Living Learning Community Room located in the old Grambling Laboratory High School building that currently houses the Receiving Department.

On Thursday afternoon, the room was the site of the unveiling of an art mural designed by a team effort between GSU’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA), the Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NEDHSA) and the Black Creative Circle of North Louisiana (BCCNL).

NEDSHA has worked on using various art forms as one of its integrated health care, evidence-based prevention, communications, and treatment strategies to help serve persons with mental health, addictive disorders, and developmental disabilities. 

The new mural at GSU is the second commissioned public art completed through NEDHSA’s  partnership with BCCNL. 

NEDHSA Director of Public Information DeRon L. Talley said Thursday the mural was strategically placed on the campus in the Grambling High Building to help the students overcome the traumatic experiences they have had in their lives on campus or away from campus.

“While the murals we’re commissioning are generating much-needed regional economic development, diversity, and job creation, they are also helping our region’s vulnerable populations get the help they need,” said NEDHSA Executive Director Dr. Monteic A. Sizer in a press release. “We believe there is medicine in creative expression, and the arts can help a person come alive in ways traditional treatment options can’t. We intend to help create an environment where dreams are realized, families are strong, bodies are healthy, community institutions are thriving, and spirits are renewed.”

BCCNL Project Manager Brandon Virgil designed the mural with painting help from Rodrecas Davis, head of GSU’s VAPA department.

The mural incorporates the NEDHSA’s colors of purple, red, yellow and orange, and features the organization’s phoenix symbol as well as butterflies, which Virgil said are often used to depict people whose lives are affected by mental illness. 

“We tried to design a positive image that can help give (GSU) students a positive mindset when they come in and see the mural,” Virgil said.

In June, NEDHSA and BCCNL unveiled NEDHSA’s first wall art in downtown Monroe’s Art Alley.

“It’s always good to be invited to the party, but then you start thinking about the logistics — like how are we going to get this thing done in the amount of time we had?,”  Davis said. “We were on a deadline for some other projects, too, and working on murals in the middle of a Louisiana summer can be tough.”

The groups are working on another mural in Lake Providence with a third planned for Farmerville.

“I wasn’t able to work on the Lake Providence mural because summer school started, but hopefully I can work on the one that will be in Farmerville,” Davis said. “We’re building as many bridges as we can so everything isn’t only about the Black Creative Circle. We’re trying to get everyone activated in the process.

“It’s like being in the classroom, you do your own personal thing, but being able to get into the classroom and share what you’ve learned — that practical experience -— is what it’s all about and this is a way to demonstrate that the arts can be a formative experience for people who are involved and can make some kind of substantive change in people’s lives. It’s not just images on the wall, it’s about much more than that, especially when you can get people to stop and think about it.”

Northeast Delta HSA to unveil mural at Grambling State with Black Creatives Circle

Monroe, LA – Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NEDHSA) is set to unveil a public art mural on the campus of Grambling State University on Thursday, September 1, 2022, at 1 PM at the Grambling High Building, 278 Central Ave, Grambling, LA 71245. The latest public art mural continues NEDHSA’s partnership with the Black Creatives Circle of North Louisiana (BCCNL).

The agency began working on using various art forms as one of its integrated health care, evidence-based prevention, communications, and treatment strategies to help serve persons with mental health, addictive disorders, and developmental disabilities.

The mural on the Grambling State University campus is the second commissioned public art completed through the BCCNL partnership. It was strategically placed on the campus in the Grambling High Building to help the students overcome the traumatic experiences they have had in their lives on campus or away from campus.

NEDHSA Executive Director Dr. Monteic A. Sizer said, “while the murals we’re commissioning are generating much-needed regional economic development, diversity, and job creation, they are also helping our region’s vulnerable populations get the help they need.”

“We believe there is medicine in creative expression, and the arts can help a person come alive in ways traditional treatment options can’t,” Dr. Sizer said. “We intend to help create an environment where dreams are realized, families are strong, bodies are healthy, community institutions are thriving, and spirits are renewed.”

According to the Americans for the Arts, 69 percent of the United States population believe the Arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” 73 percent feel the Arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in,” and 81 percent say the Arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”

Grambling State University President Rick Gallot said he is “inspired by the partnership between the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Black Creatives Circle of North Louisiana, and Northeast Delta Human Services Authority.”

“The importance of supporting the whole student cannot be overstated,” Gallot said. “I am thankful for their collective vision of finding ways to keep mental health at the forefront of daily conversation.”

Grambling State University Chairperson of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Rodrecas Davis, MFA, said after COVID-19, he and other faculty had many students dealing with issues and “needed a place where they could unburden themselves.”

“The physical space is representative of the focus to provide an avenue for students to discuss self-care with their peers and address the importance of attending to one’s mental health,” Davis said. “My hope is that this space will facilitate those conversations.”

BCCNL’s President Vitus Shell said murals are “direct and great ways to express a community’s concerns and needs, envisioning a new future and safer space for the people.”

“Kids and the rest of the community can see themselves in a new light,” Shell said. “Murals can enforce themes for the people and show that someone cares about their quality of life.”

Shell said BCCNL looks like the city’s majority, and “we use our voices and talent to speak up for the unheard.”

“Artists are the visionaries of our neighborhoods, so with NEDHSA, this partnership is perfect,” Shell said. “The history and mission of NEDHSA align with our goals of empowering creatives to create change in any way imaginable.”

The mural reveal is open to the public. To reserve a spot at the reveal, visit

For more information, contact Public Information Director DeRon Talley by emailing Deron.Talley@La.Gov.

World Famed Tiger Marching Band debuts 2022 season at Pepsi Battle of the Bands event

Houston, TX – August 29, 2022 – The Grambling State University World Famed Tiger Marching Band got an early start to the fall marching band season as one of eight bands from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to compete in the 2022 Pepsi National Battle of the Bands event that was held Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Other competing marching bands included Alabama A&M University, Alcorn State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Kentucky State University, North Carolina A&T University, Prairie View A&M University, and Southern University.

“I think the kids did well even if they say I’m never satisfied,” said Dr. Nikole Roebuck, Director of Bands and Chair of the Department of Music. “And I’m not, so I’ll continue to push and get them to keep making progress week after week. I don’t want them to get complacent, so we’ll continue to work hard so that we keep on elevating our performances throughout the season.”

“I think the fact that it was our first performance of the year and our first performance in the National Battle of Bands made it even more special than many performances,” Roebuck said. “This was the first time we’ve gone up against seven additional HBCU bands, so it was very exciting. There was a lot of energy in the stadium and the kids fell in line and did what they were supposed to do.”

Roebuck said the early competitive event will also help make the Tiger Marching Band better in the long run.

“I think that kind of event is good for all bands in general. That’s your opponent across the field, so you’re doing everything you can to make sure you come out on top, every week. This was a great way to start marching band season,” Roebuck said. “Every time the World Famed Tiger Marching Band performs, it’s special. We try to make each performance one people will remember and talk about forever. So, we’re going to go out there and show people what ‘The World Famed’ is all about.”

GRAMMY-nominated rap group Migos headlined the event with a performance following the final band performance of the show. Migos is a multi-platinum hip-hop group founded in Atlanta as a trio featuring Quavo, Offset and Takeoff. The iconic hip hop trio amassed more than 3.3 billion streams of their hit songs on Spotify, including “Stir Fry,” “Walk It Talk It” and “Bad and Boujee.”

The event also included a conference for entrepreneurs. National and local bank leaders showed up in Houston’s 5th Ward community to conduct a workshop with established and aspiring business owners. Food distribution to the homeless community also took place on Saturday morning.

Grambling State names Jay J. Ellis Chief Information Officer

Jay J. Ellis


Grambling, La. – August 15, 2022 – University officials announced today that Jay J. Ellis, CISM has been named Chief Information Officer at Grambling State University (GSU). Having served recently as the Director of Infrastructure Services for Prairie View A&M University, Ellis brings over 20 years of experience in Information Technology with expertise in information security governance, program development management, incident management, risk management, and joint IT support consulting services for private sector companies for the United States military throughout the Middle East. Ellis has been recognized as a Change Agent and Innovative-Centric Strategist with expansive knowledge of emerging technologies proven to improve operations.

“We welcome Mr. Ellis as Chief Information Officer to the GSU family,” said President Rick Gallot, Jr. “Mr. Ellis has higher education technology experience along with developing innovative divergent strategies to address complex projects, business scenarios, challenges, and opportunities that will prove beneficial for GSU’s digital future.”

Previously, Ellis was appointed to the Lonestar Education and Research Network Technical Advisory Group (LEARN), a non-profit organization of 43 organizations of public and private institutions that connects its members and affiliated organizations to statewide resources.

“As CIO, his scope of responsibility will include strengthening Grambling State’s network infrastructure with management oversight of the information technology for the entire institution,” said Dr. Penya M. Moses, Chief Operating Officer.

As the leader of the development of the IT blueprint, Ellis will work to reduce manual processes and mitigate risk by strengthening internal controls, expanding technology capabilities, building and managing a portfolio of technology projects, and allocating the resources for successful implementation.

“I am excited to be a part of GramFam and I believe that my experience in incorporating system designs, integrations, and operations with Cybersecurity best practices will further enhance the future of Grambling State University for the benefit of the faculty, students, and staff technology experience,” said Ellis.

Ellis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix and holds certifications recognized by VMware, Cisco, Microsoft, CompTIA, Amazon Web Services, and ISACA, as a certified information security manager.

GSU’s Call Me MiSTER program holds second annual banquet

Grambling State University’s MiSTERs pose together following the second annual Call Me MiSTER banquet held on Aug. 6. (Photos by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

There are officially more MiSTERs at Grambling State University to begin the fall semester.

GSU’s Call Me MiSTER program added nine new MiSTERs to its ranks as the second annual Call Me MiSTER Banquet was held Saturday night at the New Living Word School Family Life Center in Ruston.

Chancellor Marco French of Queensborough Leadership Academy in Shreveport served as guest speaker for the banquet.

The Call Me MiSTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role models) program was founded originally at Clemson University in 2000. The program strives to increase the pool of available teachers from a more diverse background, particularly among the lowest-performing elementary schools.

Because less than 2% of the teachers in the U.S. are African American males, Grambling State’s Black Male Teacher Initiative joined with Clemson’s program to help develop and recruit more Black men into the teaching profession.

Student participants are largely selected from under-served, socio-economically disadvantaged, and educationally at-risk communities. Call Me MiSTER serves students at 19 participating colleges within South Carolina as well as eight national partner institutions, including Grambling State.

The 2022-23 Grambling State MiSTER inductees honored during a pinning ceremony at the end of the banquet are secondary education majors Tremayne January, Keith Garrison and Terrence Robinson; elementary education majors Tyrin Batiste, Tony McClain, Adrien Myles, and Furnell Haynes; and music education majors Stephen Augman and Tyris Hall.

“This outstanding group of new MiSTERS shows how this program is growing and paving the way for a better education for all students in Louisiana from kindergarten through college,” said Dr. George Noflin, director of GSU’s Call Me MiSTER program.


Keynote speaker Marco French delivers his message during GSU’s second annual Call Me MiSTER banquet held on Aug. 6.

French, a GSU education graduate, spoke to the group about the determination he needed to endure a long road en route to becoming a Gates Millennium Scholar at Grambling State before eventually being named Louisiana’s 2021 Principal of the Year.

As he spoke about that determination, French took the audience to church as he talked about how his love of teaching began.

“Let me take you back to where it all started — church,” French said. “I was teaching Sunday

School for juniors, ages 11-13. I did that for a couple of years and then started teaching the primary class. Then they moved me again. Now I was teaching the senior class.”

“So, then I was teaching people older than me in church. My foundation for learning started in the church. It didn’t start in high school. It didn’t start at Grambling State University. It started in the church. I was teaching people older than me in the church. My teaching foundation began in the church. High school and Grambling (State) just taught me the other things I needed that I didn’t get in church.”

One of the things French learned in church was the perseverance he would need later in life.

French talked about the success he found as a student at GSU being on the President’s list every semester and being a Gates Millennium Scholar. Then he spoke of taking the Praxis test more than eight times without being able to pass it, eventually graduating from GSU with an Associate’s degree in child development before Atkins Elementary School took a chance on providing him the opportunity to showcase his teaching skills as an uncertified substitute teacher receiving $80 per day.

He continued by talking about eventually becoming principal at Queensborough and having it removed from the state’s academically failing. Under French’s leadership, the school received recognition as Louisiana’s Outstanding School, ranking first out of the top 10 high-performing schools for third-grade literacy progress and growth in 2019.

French then discussed a 2008 book about him not being certified at that time written by two certified teachers who worked at the same school he did.

He then talked about becoming certified and only teaching in the classroom at that level for three years before becoming an administrator.

French then showed the group his teaching diplomas before again taking the young MiSTERS at the banquet to church as he brought out a Bible, holding it for all to see.

“This book is all about Marco French,” he said. “It may not say Marco French by name, but if you read it, you’ll see it says, ‘My child.’ I am His child. This book outweighs any other book or certificate. The author of this book is much bigger and more important than any other author.”

“The authors of this book written about me not being certified at that time underestimated the power of the author of this book — the Bible.”

Winding down his speech, French circled back to the words perseverance and determination and the roles those two attributes have played in his life. Determined was the theme of the 2022 Call Me MiSTER Conference hosted by GSU on June 30.

“The difference between successful people and others who aren’t is not from a lack of strength or a lack of knowledge, but rather from the lack of determination,” French said. “MiSTERS, continue to be determined to make a difference in the lives of the scholars you’re going to lead, the lives you’re going to touch, and the impact you’re going to make on them.”

Grambling State, NWS team to be StormReady

Pictured from left to right are GSU Assistant Police Chief Albert Ernest, GSU Police Chief Rod Demery, and NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Charlie Woodrum. (Photo by T. Scott Boatright)

University Communications

As he’s met incoming freshmen and their parents during Summer Orientation sessions, new Grambling State University Police Chief Rod Demery has stressed his department’s primary job is to make sure GSU students, faculty and staff are kept safe.

Potential safety hazards can come in many different forms, and it’s for that reason that GSU has teamed with the National Weather Service for the StormReady program.

To be recognized as StormReady, a community or university must establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; have more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public; create a system that monitors local weather conditions; promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars; and develop a formal hazardous weather plan that includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. 

Meteorologist Charlie Woodrum of the National Weather Service Office in Shreveport met on Tuesday with Demery and GSUPD Assistant Chief Albert Ernest to discuss that plan, which is designed to help GSU improve communication and safety skills needed to save lives before, during and after a severe weather event.  

Woodrum also presented GSU with a recognition certficicate and a special StormReady  sign during that meeting on Tuesday.

“StormReady is an all-hazards preparedness program where the National Weather Service recognizes universities, communities, parishes and counties all across the United States for having a plan establishing how they work with the National Weather Service, how we provide them with weather support and then what they do on campus,” Woodrum said.

“For example, here at Grambling, what do students do when they get a tornado warning? They need to know to get away from windows and move to an interior room on the lowest floor of the building that they’re in. There are several different ways students, faculty and staff can get information about a tornado warning, so it’s a matter of establishing those and making sure that Grambling has the latest and greatest information from our office.”

Woodrum said that tornadoes can occur in Lincoln Parish any time of year but that there are two peak seasons during which a special vigilance should be maintained.

“Tornadoes around here are most frequent in spring, but they occur in fall, too,” Woodrum said. “Fall is a secondary period and we’ve had some pretty bad tornadoes around here in the November into December timeframe. Then spring is our peak — March and April into May.”

But the StormReady program goes much further than tornadoes.

“StormReady is not only  about tornadoes,” Woodrum said. “It’s about preparedness. It’s about flash flooding. It’s about heavy snow and freezing rain events. But It’s mainly really about having a close relationship with the National Weather Service and making sure to be ready for all weather hazards.

“Like in this excessive heat we’ve been experiencing, people should drink a lot of water, take breaks, and watch the temperatures for outdoor athletic events and practices, be it football, soccer or even band practices. Every summer we unfortunately see fatalities in the United States from athletic practices being conducted during excessive heat. So proper precautions need to be taken and monitoring needs to be done to try and best ensure the safety of everyone.”

Woodrum said that the recent extreme flooding in the central U.S. is one more sign for the need of the StormReady Program.

“We are seeing lots of high-impact events,” Woodrum said. “We’re observing climate change in different parts of the country, so we have to be ready for more extreme events.”

Demery said he’s proud to see GSU establish the StormReady partnership with the NWS.

“It’s real important — the whole plan,” Demery said. “Our mission is to keep everybody safe and weather is a part of that. We have had severe weather here and we want to make sure everybody has a plan, whether it’s an evacuation, or recovering someone from deep water or providing some knowledge and comfort when the utilities go out.

“So we want to make sure we have a plan in place and partnering with the (National Weather Service) helps us stay on top of things, follow trends and get real-time information.”

Demery added that he planned on looking into ways to incorporate the StormReady plan and information into Grambling’s G Safe Mobile App.

“We’re going to have to discuss that because I think it should be part of the (GSU) SAFE app,” Demery said. “We’re definitely going to look into that.”

There are more than 3,100 StormReady communities across the United States. GSU has joined the ranks of more than 300 universities across the nation that have achieved StormReady status, and only the fourth university in the state of Louisiana. 

GSU’s StormReady recognition will expire in four years, before which the university will go through a renewal process.