It was an afternoon to remember as an intimate crowd of Florida A&M students, alumni and faculty joined a handful of Pepsi executives for the official launch of the ESSENCE x Pepsi “She Got Now” initiative.
Hosted by songstress Jessie Woo, alongside ESSENCE Girls United co-founder Rechelle Dennis, the inaugural luncheon was part of the annual Homecoming kick-off day activities for the beloved HBCU. The afternoon saw ESSENCE and Pepsi partner for the first time to honor two of the universities’ many phenomenal young women who continue to set the bar of excellence high both in and outside of the classroom.
FAMU alum Rashan Ali was overwhelmed with pride as she took to the podium to accept her award. A former presidential scholar and student-athlete at the university, the Sister Circle TV host spoke with purpose as she expressed how grateful she is to be a part of the FAMU legacy and also to be able to consistently give back in more ways than one.
“I came to FAMU in the fall of 1993 and it forever changed my life”, Ali said. “I’m so happy to continue to give to this university, not only monetarily, but to be able to speak to the students and really breathe life into them because this is the best 4 to 5 years of your life,” she later added.
A proud Atlanta native and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Ali’s career as a respected multimedia personality includes over 12 years in radio, a successful run as a sideline reporter for CBS Sports Network and freelancer work as a reporter for both CNN and HLN. She is also the founder of SportyGirls, Inc., a non-profit organization that encourages the development of life skills in girls ages 8-18 through participation in golf, tennis, soccer, swimming, and lacrosse.
Throughout her career and through pursuing her passion for service, Ali continues to embody her belief that “giving is the rent you pay for living”
FAMU junior Robyn Seniors accepted her award with a heart full of gratitude and a desire to do even more. A proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Robyn is the youngest in a family of accomplished Black women and men who has helped carry the FAMU legacy across generations.
Within the FAMU community and beyond, Seniors has built a reputation rich in community service. Among her many noteworthy accomplishments, the third-year business administration student helped to raise over $30,000 for cancer research at the Howard University Cancer Center as a high school student and also served as Chair of the Clean Water For Flint Youth Committee in 2016. Under her leadership, the committee worked with the Leon county community and other surrounding counties in Tallahassee, FL, to ultimately provide over 50,000 bottles of clean water to residents of Flint, MI. With just one year to go until her undergraduate education is complete, Robyn says she looks forward to leaving a FAMU legacy as “a lady that never lunches but always works.”
“Making the decision to attend FAMU has been one of the best decisions that I have made in my adult life. I realize now that it is not by chance at all; my steps were being ordered,” Seniors said as she accepted her award. “I am truly honored to be a member of one of the greatest student bodies in the land as we collectively rise up to continue the legacy of excellence at FAMU. And as President Obama said so eloquently, let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.”
The afternoon also heard FAMU President, Dr. Larry Robinson, and ESSENCE Ventures chair and founder, Richelieu Dennis, reflect on the importance of the “She Got Now” initiative and the work being done at FAMU that aligns with the mission behind the movement.
“Sixty percent of your student body being women is a huge step forward. Having a program that celebrates and recognizes them, huge step forward. Having a woman leading your school of business as your Dean, huge step forward,” Dennis said. “So, what we’re all doing and what this is about is not just celebrating what women in our communities are doing, but it’s also about how we partner together to help push them forward and help move them forward, not just here in Florida, but all around the globe.”
For President Robinson, the initiative marks an opportunity to continue FAMU’s history of uplifting, and providing opportunities for, Black women.
“I’d like to say that FAM U got it right from the start,” he said.”We were, in fact, we are, the only of the 3 first public institutions for education in the state of Florida who stayed co-ed from the beginning to now. Throughout our history, FAMU has recognized the need to educate anyone, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, who arrived at our doors, and that includes women. We’ve done that so well that our student population today is sixty percent female.”
Robinson also shared words of gratitude for ESSENCE and Pepsi Co. partnering to continue to mission through the She Got Now initiative.
“I just want to thank our friends, Pepsi Co. and ESSENCE, for this wonderful concept that you’re doing here, promoting young women and African-American women in particular, ” he said. “Girls United and She Got Now are both things I think would have propelled the countless numbers of Robyn Seniors out there into doing even greater things.”
Keep scrolling to see more of everything you missed at the Pepsi x ESSENCE “She Got Now” kick-off luncheon.