Marcia Sturdivant, President and CEO – Just What the Students NEED

Speaking at the 50th Anniversary NEED Gala

Marcia Sturdivant, President and CEO Just What the Students NEED

New President and CEO of NEED
New President and CEO of NEED

In 2012, 46 percent of Black high school graduates went on to enroll in college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and that number is on trend to rise over the next decade. But with access to federally funded grants decreasing, the cost of tuition increasing and the constant threat of escalating student loan interest rates, Black students are still less financially equipped to take on secondary education than any other race of people.

That’s where the Negro Education Emergency Drive comes in. Providing financial assistance to minorities for the last 50 years, the Pittsburgh-based collegiate financial aid organization specializes in assisting Western Pennsylvania’s Minority population pursue secondary education. I’m very committed to finding out how we reduce disparities between African American families and their counterparts. Even in this day in time we still have challenges with Black children not reaching their full potential,” Marcia Sturdivant, the recently appointed President and CEO of NEED, says. Sturdivant follows in the footsteps of Sylvester Pace who led the institution for over 10 years and passed away in 2012 after a long battle with lymphoma.

In her position as an adjunct professor at Point Park University, her undergrad alma mater, Sturdivant gets firsthand knowledge of the barriers that keep many of the city’s Black students from taking their second collegiate walk across the stage. Sturdivant says every semester she sees minority students fail to return for the next semester because they lack the resources to continue their education.

NEED’s new president says this is where the private sector comes in. Sturdivant believes corporations have a responsibility to eliminate financial access as a roadblock to higher education.

“If you look at the history of many private sector businesses they have not gained their status from one particular population. cont’d on page 22 assisting Western Pennsylvania’s minority population pursue secondary education.

“I’m strongly involved in education. I’ve been an adjunct at several universities, so I’ve always had my hand in educating others.

In the United States we have all contributed to the wealth and resources of this country. So, if you just look at it from a business standpoint you [corporations] are better served by including individuals so that they can add to society,” Sturdivant says. NEED’s corporate partners include companies like UPMC, Bayer and Citizen’s Bank.

In the coming years, Sturdivant also plans to encourage more minority students to enter the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. President Barack Obama echoed similar sentiment during his two terms in office, encouraging students to enter more highly skilled and technical fields as opposed to the typical liberal arts degree. According to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 STEM Solutions study, 3 million STEM jobs currently sit vacant because graduates lack the education to fill the openings. NEED now offers a STEM program designed to raise the number of African-American women entering the fields.

Service is also high on Sturdivant’s agenda. With the organization’s 50-year anniversary approaching, she hopes to reach out to NEED’s 19,000 alumni and encourage them to give back.

“That needs to become a part of our curriculum moving forward; that we are a collective of people who reach back. So even if you go on to become a nuclear physicist you need to understand you have a responsibility to give back,” she says. There are a number of ways alumni can get involved, such as its African American Male Mentoring Initiative.

Sturdivant’s way of giving back to Pittsburgh is by making sure NEED becomes a household name all over Western Pennsylvania.

“We have the most beautiful and intelligent kids in the world, but Black children have a hard way to go. So we need NEED to be on the lips of all the parents and kids we know so we can eliminate some of those barriers.”

For more information on NEED visit their website at

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