If the lyric “I use to pray for times like this to rhyme like this” was a group of people, it would be the inaugural class of AT&T Dream in Black Rising Future Makers. From a very young age, many people are encouraged to dream big and dream in color. The value of imagination is vast and nothing is out of reach. AT&T is committed to the power of dreams and is encouraging people to Dream In Black.

Dream In Black is a platform that amplifies and celebrates voices that aren’t commonly heard. In their program extension for HBCU students, AT&T Dream In Black made a call for the students who are making significant impacts in their communities, their campuses or both — all before they graduate.

HBCU students from across the nation answered the call and presented why they should be chosen to receive $5,000 to further their work, along with other prizes and resources that will help them level up as Rising Future Makers. This year’s cohort consists of 25 students who completely understood the assignment. From fashion and merchandising to advocacy and health care, and everywhere in between, these Rising Future Makers are setting the wave for what’s next.

Recently, Blavity had the opportunity to get to know this year’s cohort and introduce you to three of the Rising Future Markers. Meet Kawika Smith, Gabrielle Stewart and Devan Vilfrard.

Kawika Smith

Kawika Smith is a junior sociology major at Morehouse College from South Central Los Angeles. Smith is an advocate for the rights and protection of people against sexual harassment, the elimination of standardized testing and the advancement of restorative justice practices. Smith walks it like he talks it as an impactor for the CROWN Act and leader of a class-action case demanding that colleges have more equitable admission practices. Smith had the opportunity to share some of the details of his journey as a TEDx speaker. Today, you can find Smith doing political work with local Atlanta officials and continuing the fight to end discriminatory practices at colleges and universities. In the future, you can catch Smith pursuing his master’s in public policy and law degrees from UCLA and shaking tables as a future state senator.

Gabrielle Stewart

Gabrielle Stewart is a senior nutritional science student at Howard University from Southern California. As an aspiring dietician, Stewart has always had an interest in health care and its effects on the human condition. As early as age 8, Stewart began researching the effects of cancer on the human body — sis had early determination to find a cure. It was during this time that she found out how nutrition and diet play a major role in a person’s health. This effect is even more impactful for Black people because of systemic trends that present unhealthy food options and a lack of nutritional resources in communities of color. When Stewart isn’t active in Howard’s dietician program, she’s advancing her work on a farm to provide free produce to families unable to access fresh food during the pandemic. After graduation, Stewart plans on opening a health and wellness center that promotes the holistic nutritional health of communities of color.

Devan Vilfrard

Devan Vilfrard is a senior political science major at Florida A&M University from Tallahassee, Florida. Vilfrard is actively using his voice to make sustainable change in his community. As the State President for Florida's NAACP State Conference Youth & College Division, Vilfrard is committed to empowering his peers with the necessary tools to be change-makers and advocates for justice. A leadership savant, he’s also Florida A&M University’s Student Government Associate Chief Justice and the recipient of several awards and honors, which include being an inaugural fellow of The Memorial Foundation Social Justice Fellows Program. Vilfrard can be spotted in the field protesting for the equitable treatment of Black lives or working to provide aid to those impacted by hurricanes in Florida. His service will continue post-graduation as he pursues a master’s degree in Afro-American history before heading to Law School. As an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this change agent is no stranger to the dream of a better tomorrow.

The AT&T Dream In Black 2021 HBCU Rising Future Makers cohort is giving what it’s supposed to give. Each individual is changing the game through the power community and innovation.

Visit here to connect with Kawika Smith, Gabrielle Stewart, Devan Vilfrard and the full inaugural class of 25 HBCU students.

This editorial is brought to you in partnership with AT&T Dream in Black.