Tennessee State University students weather through Hurricane Sandy at the 12th Annual Leadership Institute and Recruitment Fair presented by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in New York City this past weekend. In hopes to grow as students and receive potential job offers for top companies.

Empty streets at New York’s Time Square as Hurricane Sandy hits the east coast. Photo Courtesy of Summit Shukla

NEW YORK – Fourteen Tennessee State University students departed last Friday for New York City for the 12th Annual Leadership Institute and Recruitment Fair presented by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. While gaining leadership skills, the student hoped to land employment and internships with world’s largest companies. The conference was held at the prestigious Hilton New York Hotel. The TSU students were among 500 students selected for the conference from 47-member school of TMCF.

TSU senior, Chika Chimezie, had this to say about her expectations for the event, “My number one hope for the conference was to make sure I got interviews with some of the companies I would be interest in working for down the line. Coming here I was able to get interviews with companies that generally wanted me or someone with my background and talent. I was able to get interviews with Walmart, Microsoft, and Hersey’s and with that I would say I reached my number one goal of coming here”

The annual event is one of the most recognized career-preparation conferences in the nation that supports public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The four-day conference – which is TMCF’s largest – is designed to build upon the knowledge and skills of the attending students.  Giving the students access to network with each other, top recruiters and senior-level executives from government agencies and blue-chip corporations. Imparting students with career-building skills, financial literacy, and professional branding techniques. Also equip them to be more competitive in the job market.

“I was hoping to gain more skills and leadership. And to hopefully get a job.” said TSU senior, Danicia Hayes who currently serves as Miss Tennessee State University.

The weekend’s outlook seemed promising until the news broke that Hurricane Sandy’s course had shifted in the Atlantic towards the greater New York City area. Making landfall late Monday evening down on the coast of New Jersey. Yet TMCF refused to cancel the conference and insured the students that they would be safe.

“We were informed that we would be safe so I trusted everyone above us and their (TMCF) word. I did not know the extent of Hurricane Sandy and how dangerous it was so it caught me off guard. They (TMCF) handled it really well and they constantly reminded us and had talks with us and let us know that we were safe. And they insured the students that they were going to give us the entire Thurgood Marshall experience and everything we came here for we completed.” said Hayes.

Chimezie added this statement on the assurance from the staffs of the Hilton and TMCF, “I really didn’t let the hurricane interfere with what I wanted to gain from the conference, because I knew TMCF safe the Hilton Hotel were able to take care of us. One thing that really stood out to me was how TMCF staff kept us relaxed and didn’t let anyone panic about the hurricane. They were able to affectively communicate with us what we needed to do and that we still were going to have hotel accommodations and food provided even tough we were going to be here a few extra days.”

Those few extra days in New York could be worse for the TSU students. None of the students were harmed doing the storm and Hilton Hotel remains in perfect condition with running water and electricity. Since the LaGuardia airport suffered from flood damage, the earliest the cohort can fly out is Saturday. Other areas of the Big Apple suffered a higher cost in Sandy’s aftermath. Currently 2 million residences are without power (3.5 million in the Tri-State area) and the city is pumping hundreds of millions gallons of water from basements and subway tunnels.  With a reported 19 people dead, the damaged of the storm to the country’s largest metropolitan area is estimated at $20 billion.

With all the misfortunes of the hurricane on the city, the students of TSU still enjoyed their experience at the conference. They enjoyed hearing from successful individuals with similar backgrounds.

“It was a wonderful experience, it was just so many minorities doing really good things in the world. I think it really gives HBCU students in particular like hope. We do have the ability to have these high position jobs if we just take that extra effort and work a little harder. So I was very proud to see that and to see everyone and how personal they were. And any way that they could help us they said they will.” said Hayes.

While the TSU students ate breakfast this morning, TSU’s President Dr. Portia Holmes-Shield called the cohort to assure them that TSU had not forgotten about them and looks forward to having lunch with them detailing their experience once they return.


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