Black Women Instilling Scholarly Excellence (BWISE), a Dallas-Fort Worth based organization, offers mentorships and financial aid to young women of color in North Texas and beyond.
BWISE was founded in 2018 by five alumnae of Texas Women’s University: Dr. Kyanna Silas, Dr. Lasteshia Ekeocha, Dr. Dennia D. Thompson, Dr. Leticia Cole and Dr. Whitney Kirkpatrick Valentine.
BWISE continues to host new community events like book drives, college tours and nonprofit symposiums. Its mentorship program includes a professional core, a university level and a section for high school students.
“The mission of BWISE is to aim to encourage the academic and professional potential of young women of color across the world,” Silas said. “We want them to seek academic excellence in their profession while also learning the importance of giving back to their community.”
BWISE offers multiple programs including academic assistance, mentorship training, resume building and interview preparation. The organization’s most recent initiative is a $500 scholarship essay contest for incoming freshmen. It is open to women of color that reside in Denton, Dallas or Tarrant counties and is accepting applications through July 15.
“We have it set at a limit of 60 [applicants],” Dr. Ekeocha said. “We’re at about 25 percent right now.”
BWISE also plans to offer an additional scholarship in 2021 for current college students. Women of color studying at UNT, TWU and other DFW universities will be eligible. As more funds are raised, each scholarship will increase in both award amount and number of recipients.
Ekeocha said the ultimate goal “is to be able to give a full-ride scholarship to at least one woman of color.”
Also for current college students, BWISE offers opportunities for academic and professional mentorship at no cost to the student. Accepted participants will receive mentoring from a professional in their field of study and, in turn, will mentor a high school student who plans to study the same major.
Virtual interest meetings are held monthly and can be found on the BWISE website’s calendar page.
“It’s important to have organizations like BWISE because of how they encourage a changed and better American,” media arts and English senior Amani Sodiq-Odunaiya said. “With everything going on around us right now, one thing people are really advocating for is change. There are a lot of steps that can be done to change America for the better but one of those steps includes providing better opportunities and guidance for our youth.”
While BWISE is currently focusing on training mentors from North Texas, Dr. Valentine said future efforts will include expanding across the state and eventually the nation. Neighboring states in the South have already expressed their interest in the organization.
In regards to students facing an uncertain and unusual fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BWISE is ready to help young women of color get the most out of their altered or remote classes.
“We want to help you be successful in the classroom so you can in turn be successful as a professional once you do start working,” Valentine said.