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Educating and empowering students to fulfill their potential and develop leadership skills are some of UCF's goals for the 60,000-plus students it serves; but a new institute on campus also caters specifically to the enriched development of UCF's black community.

Building Leaders and Connecting Knights, or the B.L.A.C.K Institute, is a new UCF-exclusive program created by Dr. Tamalia Hanchell, a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services.

A two-day event took place on Friday and Saturday at the UCF Teaching Academy, catering to black students and helping them promote unity and leadership within the community.

Promoting the idea of “learning today and leading tomorrow,” the Institute stems from Hanchell’s other program, the B.L.A.C.K series, which also encourages black excellence in the work place, in school and among peers.

“[The Institute is] aimed at African-American students trying to connect with one another,” UCF alumna and CAPS intern Katy Weilant said.

For the event, UCF faculty, staff and student speakers gathered on a panel and talked to the students in attendance about what they should be doing to get ahead, and how they can help others in the community thrive as well. During a discussion about evolving from burdens and moving forward, UCF Associate Director for Resident Life Arian Bryant spoke Friday about his background and his younger self.

“I wore Timbs before I wore ties,” Bryant said. “There weren’t many people in my neighborhood that were professional; most of the men of color that I saw were either in prison, coming out of prison or weren’t professionals on the suit-and-tie level.”

Aside from the panel discussion, there were also different workshops and team-building events, and students were taught in small groups how to better manage stress, time and financial management.

As part of the Institute, black students also had the opportunity to connect with black faculty and staff. Courtney Handy, a junior legal studies major, attends multiple B.L.A.C.K series events and believes that it has had a positive impact on her college career.

“Sometimes [black students] may feel disconnected from such a large institution,” Handy said. “[School] can sometimes be overwhelming, [but] having a network like this allows the chance to gain valuable knowledge and opportunity.”

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Brianna Jones is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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