The St. Michael’s Residence Hall on the campus of Xavier University, which was a safe space for the Freedom Riders who rode buses across the South in protest of segregation will be converted into a STEM Center, NOLA reports.
Xavier was awarded a $2.5 million grant that will fund renovations to turn the dorm into a world-class STEM Center that will focus “on science, technology, engineering, and math.” According to the report, the first floor of the building will house an advising center for students entering health professions including medicine, research, and laboratory sciences, and the upper floor will be a space for tutoring.
At a press conference Monday, U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, who helped to secure the grant in March, presented the check to university officials and said the center "will give the opportunity to further develop our young minds in those areas of the hard sciences.”
The funds were generated from general appropriation dollars Community Funding Project, which is a $17.5 million government package that funded seven projects around the New Orleans area “aimed at providing mental health services, public health research, upgrades to local parks and more.”
"The center will allow us to increase our capacity to bring in more practitioners of color into professions where, as we know, the representation ... is important both for trust and for relieving the health disparities that exist in our country," said Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University.
Noah Williams, a Xavier senior who will attend Howard University's dental school next year, noted the importance of the center for producing a new generation of Black health professionals.
"This effort may not diminish every hurdle that we face as minorities within the field of medicine and healthcare, but it will continue to strengthen and support and encourage future Xavier to become doctors, nurses, dentists, engineers, and researchers that we need to make this world a better place,” Williams said.
As EBONY previously reported, Xavier University is planning to open a medical school. Verret noted that the STEM Center goes hand-in-hand with the school’s plans to be a state-of-the-art institution for aspiring Black health professionals.
"As we come back many years from now, this building, which housed the Freedom Riders, will also be the place that will house the ... future health professionals who will be taking care of people like me, and many in this community, and also will be a beacon for young people," he said.