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Two UL Lafayette students among inaugural class of R.F. Lewis Scholars

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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 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. 

Caleb Franklin and JaCaleb Smith will represent the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Franklin is a biology major from Zachary, La., while Smith is a chemical engineering major from Destrehan, La.

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 chosen annually.

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 in their 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.  Learn how you can support the program here.

“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.

A full list of participants from each of the UL System’s nine member institutions is here.

Photo caption: UL Lafayette sophomores Caleb Franklin, left, and JaCaleb Smith, right, are among the inaugural participants in the R.F. Lewis Scholars program. Ruben Henderson, the University’s associate director of Undergraduate Recruitment, is also pictured. (Photo courtesy of the University of Louisiana System)