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Find a Way or Make One

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Nov. 8 2022, Updated 8:13 p.m. ET

Terrence J. Dreams in Black as the Face of AT&T’s Rising Future Makers

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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have provided the world with some of the most prominent professionals in their respective fields since forever and a day ago. From world-changing activists and advocates like W.E.B. DuBois and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., to R&B royalty like Gladys Knight and Toni Braxton. From motion picture masters Spike Lee and Will Packer to the dynamic duo of sisters Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen. From sports stars Jerry Rice and Kimbo Slice to history-making politicians David Dinkins and Vice President Kamala Harris, HBCU alum have proven themselves forces to be reckoned with while maintaining the legacy of those who came before them and blazing a trail for those who walked the hallowed halls of their HBCUs after them. Now, one HBCU grad is making a way for a new generation of HBCU kids to keep the party going with the creativity for the culture…

An actor, producer, and entrepreneur, Terrence J. first caught his break as co-host of BET’s 106th & Park, counting down the top 10 hip hop and R&B hits during the week. Since then, he’s gone on to star in major motion pictures like Steve Harvey’s Think Like a Man and Think Like a Man Too, and Sparkle alongside Jordin Sparks, Tika Sumpter, and the late Whitney Houston. You’ve seen him in tv series like Hit the Floor, The Game, and Star. Now you can catch him changing lives and changing the game as the brand ambassador for the AT&T Dream in Black campaign’s Rising Future Makers (RFM) Program.

While it may be the motto of Clark Atlanta University, “I’ll Find a Way or Make One” is the story of every HBCU student, alum, and Black person who has ever dared to dream a dream of any. Rising Future Makers is making sure that those dreams become realities. “The Rising Future Makers Program pinpoints and highlights 25 of the best and brightest coming out of HBCUs,” says Terrence J. “It gives them a platform; it gives them access to resources. We work with them and give them mentorship opportunities, and I just love AT&T’s commitment to our community and this program that spotlights our rising future.

A graduate of North Carolina A&T State University himself, Terrence takes great pride in being the face of RFM, but also his involvement far beyond what’s on the surface. “When you go to an HBCU, there’s a certain pride that comes with it. There’s a certain that we have for each other and our alma maters,” he says. “For me to now be in this position where I can really help and give back and try to give the same opportunities to young people that were given to me is a dream come true, so I’m so excited to be an ambassador for this program and to get to work with these talented young people!

With such an impressive inaugural class setting the standard for its successors, Rising Future Makers is excited to take in its next cohort of global changemakers and how their talents and treasures will ignite the world. “AT&T has a focus on the digital divide: getting the right bandwidth, getting the right infrastructure, getting the right devices into our communities to make sure that there’s no disadvantage,” says Terrence. “When you meet these young people and you see how they use the technology; you see their ideas and how expansive they are, you see that they’re well beyond what I was thinking, and I was imagining when I was in college! These young people are trying to take over the world, and I’m excited to be in a position where I can hopefully help put them in the direction to do so.”

In this world where cultural integration in the corporate suite is now the norm, AT&T has placed a magnifying glass on the magnitude of mentorship. It’s the springboard to success for many HBCU grads, and the RFM alum can see it firsthand. “These young people coming out of college, need mentorship, right? They need to be able to touch the executives and be in different places; they need that guidance,” says Terrence. “Every internship and externship, every mentor that I had helped pushed me in the direction of my dreams. Getting that recognition from a big company like AT&T will help when it comes to job placement or starting a business for these students.” He continues, “But the biggest thing, like when I first started auditioning, I got told, ‘No,’ 100 times. When you get told, ‘No,’ and you get people telling you you’re not good enough for something, it can bring you down a notch. Being selected for RFM can really give these students the fuel to keep on going.” Essentially, the journey is empowerment, and the destination is the win.

Also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, Terrence discusses how his D9 experience shone a light on the importance of networking and how it ties into Rising Future Makers. “There have been so many times in my career where I’ve gotten a big gig or hosting and a casting director would come to me and say, ‘By the way, ROO to da Bruhz!’ There are so many people looking out for you that you may not even know about. Being a part of the Divine Nine has helped me in my career, and this type of experience for these students is going to connect to the best and brightest on other campuses.” Simply put: Each one reaches one; each one teaches one.

Terrence J will star in ‘A Hip Hop Family Christmas’ – produced by Jamie Foxx – premiering this holiday season and has started production on his next major motion picture. The AT&T Dream in Black Rising Future Makers Program is open to currently enrolled HBCU students, ages 18-25. Submissions for Cohort 2 are now closed.

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