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As the nation celebrates the first-ever federally recognized Juneteenth holiday, Google (GOOG, GOOGL) has announced a $50 million unrestricted grant to 10 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The grant represents the tech giant’s largest commitment to date for HBCUs and builds on Google’s Pathways to Tech initiative, which is part of the company’s racial equity initiative.
The 10 HBCUs receiving funds include Claflin University (SC), Clark Atlanta University (GA), Florida A&M University (FL), Howard University (DC), Morgan State University (MD), NC A&T State University (NC), Prairie View A&M University (TX), Spelman College (GA), Tuskegee University (AL), and Xavier University (LA).
“The historic nature of the grant is that it is unrestricted. So it really values and supports the presidents of these institutions to make the investment, to support the school and the students in the way that they deem most appropriate,” says Google’s Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker, who is an HBCU graduate herself. She tells Yahoo Finance that the initiative is part of Google’s larger efforts to invest in tech industry talent.
“I’m a first-generation college-proud HBCU alum from Hampton University. I grew up in North Carolina, and we want to make sure that students have access to computing and that across all communities and some of our HBCUs are in rural communities very much like the one I grew up in,” Parker said.
“It’s important to make sure that we’re pouring and investing into the future of tomorrow and that we’re expanding access to tech. And to do that, we have to equip. You know, our HBCUs are national treasures, and we have to equip them to make the investments that they need.”
Google is also pledging $100 million in funding participation for Black-led capital firms, startups, and organizations supporting Black entrepreneurs. Parker notes that this step, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, is an essential step for sustainability and stability for Black business owners.
“What we’re hearing from our entrepreneurs is the difference that it’s made in the way that they’re able to support their business. Through Grow with Google we also have additional initiatives such as digital coaches that provide entrepreneurial support. We have lots of resources that folks can take advantage of to really close the economic wealth gap and to provide that sustainable equity that we know is important.”
The Google chief diversity officer says that one of the goals of these various initiatives is to help change the face of what tech workers look like and show those within Black and Brown communities that a tech career is within reach.
“It really is that full life cycle that starts now, and we need to impact, like what math you are taking in the eighth grade to make sure that you have just the right coursework to go into computing, but then you also need the access,” Parker said.
“So we’re changing the face of what a software engineer looks like, and who’s in tech, so that people who look like me understand the viable careers that are available to them.”
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.