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Walmart and Sam’s Club host inaugural HBCU summit

For the first time ever, the retailers are hosting HBCU students from across the nation for professional development workshops and much more.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — For the first time ever, Walmart & Sam's Club hosted a student summit for Historically Black Colleges and Universities also known as HBCUs.

Walmart's Collaboration with Black Owned NWA’s founders brought several Black Owned Businesses to the Sam's Club headquarters on Oct. 9 to showcase the diversity of the community.

A total of 19 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were represented at the summit with 60 students. These students attended workshops and the Black Business Expo. 

Being graduates of HBCUs themselves Jasmine Hudson from Tennessee State University, J'Aaron Merchant from Savannah State University, and Sierra Polk of Blackground Agency from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore are on a mission to ensure that future associates are well aware of ways to plug into the community that is both familiar and culturally relevant. 

For three days, retailers hosted this summit for three reasons; to showcase opportunities at Walmart and Sam’s club, immerse students into the Northwest Arkansas community and fill roles for 2023 internship positions.  

"And to make sure they can again see themselves as a part of this community. Northwest Arkansas is a hidden gem as we like to say, so making sure students at HBCUs from across the country have the opportunity to learn a bit more," said Morgan Vazquez. 

Throughout the week, the students participated in professional development workshops such as "Why Representation Matters" and "Real Talk: Being Black in Corporate America," and a networking event. Overall, the goal of the conference is to create equal educational opportunities for African Americans. 

"We believe that diversity is going to fuel innovation and that's at the core of what we do. So we truly believe here at Walmart and Sam's club that there's a path for everyone and people should be able to be their full authentic selves every single day,” Vazquez said. 

Elijah Smith is a business marketing major at Norfolk State in Virginia and says the summit taught him the importance of representation and diversity in the workplace. 

"I learned about my personal brand and how I market myself. I also learned inside the interview sessions you know how to ace an interview," Smith explained.  

Smith owns a clothing brand called “Be Great Clothing Brand” and says this program has already helped his career opportunities. Recently, he received and accepted an offer from Sam’s Club for their merchandising internship next year. 

"I love the experience and I love the environment here and the culture. And I think this is somewhere I would thrive and grow, I never thought I would see myself living in Arkansas but Sam's club is going to be the reason I'll be here for the next couple of years," Smith said. 

Jordan Price is a Florida A&M student that says this summit is so important for HBCU students and is grateful for the exposure and experience.  

"It brings together African Americans from all over and I know that sometimes we have to work harder in corporate America, so this is very important for us to get our one-on-one time with other African Americans that attended HBCUs that have been in the same shoes as us maybe a few years ago or longer than that. And give us advice on what to do and how to succeed in corporate America," Price said.  

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