A Dream Deferred | HBCU Conference 2024

Connecting Black Students to National Recognition and Colleges

“We had over 17,000 National African American Recognition awardees in 2023,” said Richard Green, the executive director for BigFuture student engagement at College Board, “And we can’t wait to award more students in 2024.”

During the 2024 A Dream Deferred™ conference, Green led a panel session on the National Recognition Programs, which celebrate the strong academic performance of high school students who are historically underrepresented on college campuses. And that group of award honorees includes Black students.

Green polled the room, asking attendees—made up of educators across K12 and higher education—what year the National Recognition Programs started.

The answer: 1983.

Starting as the National Hispanic Recognition Program, the initiative has grown to include the National African American Recognition Program, the National Indigenous Recognition Program, the National Rural and Small Town Recognition Program, and the National First-Generation Recognition Program (newly added in 2024).

Attendees applauding during a session at A Dream Deferred

The award has a big impact, not just on students but on higher education as well.

Research shows that recipients are more likely to enroll at a four-year institution. Plus, eligibility increases attendance at out-of-state colleges and public flagship institutions.

During the panel, Dr. Patricia Peek, dean of undergraduate admission and associate vice president at Fordham University, mentioned:

The [National Recognition Programs] designation tells us a lot about a student. ... The award is a great way to signal to colleges that students are college ready.

Dr. Patricia Peek, Dean of Undergraduate Admission, Associate Vice President, Fordham University

Students must show strong academic performance to be eligible for the award. Plus, if opted into Student Search Service™, colleges can connect with students who have been recognized by the National Recognition Programs. 1,500 colleges participate in Student Search Service as part of their recruitment plan.

Displaying a slide with congratulatory news headlines, Green described how students who receive recognition are often celebrated by their school community.

At the Medgar Evers College Preparatory School (MECPS), which teaches grades 6 to 12, photos of the school’s National Recognition Program awardees are proudly posted on a wall celebrating student achievement. Principal Dr. Michael Wiltshire explained, “It’s inspiring for the sixth graders to see the upper classmen whose faces are on the wall. They want to see their face on the bulletin board, too.”

Sidney C., a senior at MECPS and 2023 National African American Recognition Program awardee, shared, “It was a sense of ‘I made it.’ My hard work paid off. ... I showed my mom. She hung it up in the room. My mom even called up my family to let them know.”