Two Southeastern students among first class of R.F. Lewis Scholars
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
by: Tonya Lowentritt
SOUTHEASTERN STUDENTS CHOSEN FOR NEW SCHOLARS PROGRAM – Southeastern Louisiana University sophomores Demille Davis, left, and Dillon James, right, are among the inaugural participants in the R.F. Lewis Scholars program. Dean of Students Gabriel Willis is pictured with them at the pinning ceremony last month. (Photo courtesy of the University of Louisiana System)
HAMMOND - The University of Louisiana System has launched a program to enhance
the educational experiences of exemplary Black male students. Two students from each
of the system’s nine member institutions, including Southeastern Louisiana University,
are participating in the inaugural cohort of the R.F. Lewis Scholars program, a three-year
initiative that focuses on academics, social advancement and community service.
Demille Davis and Dillon James will represent Southeastern. Davis is a music major from Covington, while James is a nursing major from Hammond.
The 18 program participants are rising sophomores who were chosen based on academic merit, financial need and leadership skills. A new class of scholars will be selected annually.
“When I was selected as an R.F. Lewis Scholar, I had just finished a very tiring, and mentally exhausting 18-hour semester at Southeastern,” Davis said. “I’m blessed to have been selected and incredibly proud that my hard work as a freshman was noticed. I know that this will be an unforgettable experience.”
James also values his experience as a scholar, but for different reasons than Davis.
“My experience as an R.F. Lewis Scholar has been very enlightening due to the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to meet my fellow scholars, meet some influential people who are invested in this program, and learn more about who R.F. Lewis was and the great things he accomplished,” James said.
Dr. Jim Henderson, president of the UL System, said the program “has the potential to be transformational not only for the scholars, but for the state of Louisiana. As the program grows with annual cohorts, we will cultivate new Black male leaders for the state of Louisiana and beyond.”
R.F. Lewis Scholars receive a full tuition scholarship. In addition, cohorts will engage in three key areas:
• the community experience, which includes a partnership with the Universities of Louisiana Management & Leadership Institute and a service learning project;
• the social experience, which includes an annual retreat, and academic and professional mentorship from business, community and university leaders; and
• the academic experience, which includes research projects and a study abroad opportunity during junior year.
The R.F. Lewis Scholars Program is at no cost to student participants. Fundraising is under way to support the first three cohorts by June 2022.
“We appreciate the committed partnership of area businesses, philanthropic organizations and individuals who have already supported our scholars through the UL System Foundation,” said James Carter, chair of the UL System Board of Supervisors. “We know investing in these young men will pay dividends in the future as they give back to our state and our communities.”
The inaugural R.F. Lewis Scholars were introduced during a pinning ceremony last month at the system’s Black Male Summit, held at UL Lafayette.