Apple HBCU scholars with Apple Vice President for Worldwide Human Resources and Talent Denise Young Smith (center) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Apple

Apple Inc. and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund have partnered to build a pipeline for African-American students into the world's largest information technology company, with a new internship effort called the Apple HBCU Scholars Program

This year, 31 students from HBCUs will each be awarded $25,000 during their senior year of study. They will also participate in a 10-day see-it-all visit to the company prior to the three-month internship. Additionally, each student will be paired with an employee from Apple during his or her time in Cupertino, Calif., where Apple is headquartered.  

There has been recent criticism, spearheaded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, regarding the lack of diversity at large tech companies. Apple's program is the first of its kind to focus specifically on African Americans and to use the obvious source of HBCUs, which graduate thousands of students in science, technology, engineering and math fields, as a connector. 

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"Many companies talk about wanting a more diverse workforce. Apple is actually demonstrating its commitment—and in a big way," Thurgood Marshall College Fund President Johnny C. Taylor Jr. told The Root Friday in Washington, D.C.   

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"To select 31 students from nontraditional recruitment sources like HBCUs is simply unheard of and worthy of special attention. Apple is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to workforce diversity," Taylor added. 

The inaugural program will allow African-American students from HBCUs to experience in detail different departments at the popular company. Students must have at least a 3.3 GPA to participate in the program. Graduate students and students outside the engineering fields, such as business, may also apply.  

Lauren Patterson, 20, who is a junior computer science major at Hampton University, said she heard about the program through the department chairman at Hampton and was accepted for an internship. 

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"When I found out I was accepted, everyone was super excited, and of course, flying all the way across the country to work at this fabulous company is a dream come true for me," Patterson told The Root Friday. 

One of the requirements for participating in the program is that students must spread the word about the initiative at their respective campuses after their internship is completed. That stipulation, combined with the outreach to HBCUs by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, is likely to build a permanent pipeline of black STEM scholars within the company.

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Apple Vice President of Worldwide Human Resources Denise Young Smith, a graduate of Grambling State University, began working at Apple in 1997. She welcomed the HBCU students in Washington Friday. "You've proven yourself exceptionally capable," Smith said as she addressed the students Friday. 

"They'll get a chance to experience the campus and to understand the products the way we understand them and get a little bit more of an expansive perspective," Smith told The Root regarding what the students can look forward to. 

"We've always thought we could identify and deploy talent into the world's greatest organizations, and now, we have the opportunity to do that and really do something historic. There's nothing like this Apple scholarship program," said M. Scott Lily, who designed the application process and is the vice president of programs at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Here are this year's Apple HBCU scholars:

* Angelica Willis, North Carolina A&T State University
* Bethlehem Zergaw, Alabama A&M University
* Bushra-Sultan Yagboyaju, Fisk University
* Chukwuemelie Onwubuya, Allen University
* Dakari Franklin, Morehouse College
* Darnel Williams, Grambling State University
* David Nesbeth, Howard University
* Deshaun Crawford, Delaware State University
* Ebenezer Nkrumah, Fisk University
* Gaston Seneza, Philander Smith College
* Grant Pope, Morehouse College
* Khaliq Satchell, Elizabeth City State University
* Lauren Patterson, Hampton University
* Malik Jones, Hampton University
* Maurita Ament, Spelman College
* Mya Havard, Spelman College
* Nathaniel Spindler, Fayetteville State University
* Naya Coard, Spelman College
* Nhan Mai, Alabama A&M University
* Nia Farmer, Howard University
* Paris Griffin, Chicago State University
* Paul Hammond, North Carolina A&T State University
* Richard Igbiriki, Lincoln University (Pennsylvania)
* Ropafadzo Ropa Denga, Spelman College
* Sakshyam Dahal, Claflin University
* Taha Merghani, Jackson State University
* Tatyana Matthews, Elizabeth City State University
* Timothy Baba, Huston-Tillotson University/Prairie View A&M University
* Todd Boone II, Prairie View A&M University
* Xavier Crutcher, Alabama A&M University
* Zanetta Tyler, North Carolina A&T State University

Lauren Victoria Burke is a Washington, D.C.-based political reporter who writes the Crew of 42 blog. She appears regularly on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin on TV One. Follow her on Twitter