SAVANNAH, Ga. — Savannah State University will be represented by Doerun native Denerick Simpson for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Simpson is the son of Larry Simpson of Moultrie and Wendy King Hayes of Doerun.
Simpson was chosen to be a White House Competitiveness Scholar for 2020-2021. As the highest student recognition program, competitiveness scholars are chosen for their academic achievements, campus and civic engagement and entrepreneurial ethos or “go-getter” spirits. In addition, each recognized scholar is nominated and endorsed by their institution’s president, which in itself is a prestigious acknowledgement.
"It is my privilege to congratulate the HBCU Competitiveness Scholars Class of 2020-2021 on their outstanding academic achievement, community leadership, and entrepreneurial spirit," said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. "These exemplary students have excelled inside the classroom and out and have successfully met the unprecedented challenges to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their determination, resilience, and commitment to excellence will serve them well as they continue their academic careers and prepare for future continued success."
Johnathan Holifield, executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, added, "I am simply thrilled to recognize the 2020-2021 Competitiveness Scholars. These students are fine examples of the talent and boundless vitality found at America's HBCUs. This recognition heightens expectations for scholars to continue making meaningful contributions to our nation. I am confident they will deliver."
Simpson received public recognition from the U.S. Department of Education and the Initiative via press release, a personalized seal from the President of the United States, achievement recognition award and certificate signed by the initiative’s executive director, according to the initiative’s press release. He will attend the 2021 National HBCU Week conference in Washington, D.C this September. He will also continue his work with the initiative’s staff throughout the year along with other chosen scholars comprised of undergraduate, graduate, professional and international students across numerous Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Simpson is a graduate student in the Master of Business and Public Administration program at Savannah State University holding a 4.0 GPA and slated to graduate May 2021. He received both of his undergraduate degrees from the same institution graduating at the top of his class. He was previously honored by the University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley, Board of Regents, Georgia House of Representatives and Senate for being one of the system’s top academic scholars during his undergraduate career. He has earned the title “Mr. 4.0” for his persistent commitment to academic success at all levels, the press release said.
A native of Doerun, Georgia, Simpson is a Title I middle school science teacher, children’s behavioral health technician at a local hospital, Saturday academy instructor and a graduate assistant in the College of Business Administration. Previously, Simpson served as a College and Career Advisor for Georgia Southern University, online science instructor for Clovis Community College in Clovis, New Mexico and a tutor-counselor for Mercer University Upward Bound.
Prior to COVID, he also served as a site coordinator for 21st century, an $8.2-million grant after school program that targets students attending high poverty and low performing schools where he managed and monitored his school’s program budget, marketing, staffing, student behavior and attendance, ensured students’ academic and nutritional needs were met daily, oversaw the day-to-day afterschool operations and more.
At his university, Simpson can be found serving as an Eisenhower Transportation Research Fellow where he is working to devise a plan to improve transportation issues, infrastructure and access to public and private transportation opportunities in small town rural areas. He is also a STEM post-baccalaureate Noyce Scholar in the College of Education where he receives veteran teacher mentorship, financial and professional development support in exchange for teaching for a certain number of years in a “high-need school district” teacher shortage area. He is also gearing up this summer to work with university faculty and staff on the GP-IMPACT: Expanding HBCU Pathways for Geoscience Education project which is designed to improve minority access and representation in the Geosciences and impact middle school teacher preparation curricula and professional development activities.
Simpson future plans include obtaining an Ed.S in Educational Leadership and Supervision and a Doctorate in Dental Medicine. He desires to own and operate his own dental facility dedicated to underserved communities and a STEM academy designed for prepping underrepresented minorities for college and careers in the STEM fields.
Simpson co-founded the university’s first ever pre-dental society, has been named a Thurgood Marshall College Fund Ambassador-Mentor for first generation college students and is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. He will deliver the graduation reflections to his graduating class at his graduate commencement ceremony on May 7.