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5 Spelman College Students Awarded $10K Scholarships Through Spotify’s NextGen Program

The global music and podcast streaming platform Spotify gave five HBCU students scholarships to grow their craft.

According to the school’s website, Rokiyah Darbo, Taylor Mills, Ashley Rawls, Bailey Johnson, and Tellisa Massey, rising sophomores at Spelman College, were awarded $10,000 three-year scholarships through the NextGen program. NextGen Scholarship provides multiyear funding for first-year students interested in pursuing audio media careers, including podcasting, storytelling, writing, sound engineering, and music.

On top of funding, the students will have the opportunity to become Spotify ambassadors.

The scholarships are a pivotal part of the program, powered through Spotify’s Creator Equity Fund, with goals to uplift podcast culture at HBCUs. The Atlanta-based all-women’s college was the first HBCU selected to participate in the program. Spelman Professor Michelle Hite, Ph.D., introduced a NextGen audio-first focused curriculum to 17 students during the spring 2023 semester.

During the course, her students created a seven-episode podcast series exploring the murder of Emmett Till and the legacy it left behind. Hite says with Spotify’s support, these students are prone to take over the podcast industry. “This collaboration between Spelman College and Spotify signifies a shared commitment to advancing education and fostering a more inclusive audio industry,” Hite said. “With Spotify’s support, these students are poised to shape the future of audio media, amplifying their voices and enriching the industry with fresh perspectives.”

Each scholarship recipient caters to a different aspect of the podcast industry. According to Essence, Rawls said that Spotify is giving them the opportunity as a musician to share their music and create a sound for themselves and other listeners. Johnson, a double theater and English major, is excited that the platform helps student release their “imposter syndrome” and allows them to push the limits in storytelling.

To expand its program reach, Spotify launched a weeklong Spotify Labs Creator Program and hosted a Creator Day at Spelman in early 2023, with 150 students and staff attending to learn more about podcast creation from industry experts.

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