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Bethune-Cookman University Students Make History at The National Debate For Democracy Conference in New York



Most recently, Bethune-Cookman University student delegates, Augustinas Navickas and Mariyah Espinoza were selected to attend the National Debate for Democracy Conference in New York. This opportunity was an incentive for ranking in the top 10 in the Project Pericles competition, where students were challenged to write a letter to a politician to discuss a current policy they believe is unjust. Project Pericles is a group of colleges and universities that promotes civic engagement within higher education. For the competition, both students co-authored a letter to Congressman Ronald DeSantis in which they suggested a policy addendum for President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration leading to their invitation to the conference. 

This year, B-CU made history by ranking in the top 10 of the national competition for their letter, which outlined the unethical view of immigration, as well as a restriction from achieving higher education for specific groups of people. This is the first year that B-CU has ranked nationally since the inception of the competition in 2008. During the conference, Navickas and Espinoza discussed policy changes, listened to legislative hearings and interacted with other student activists from institutions around the country such as Berea College, Dillard University, Morehouse College, and Pace University. The two B-CU student delegates were supervised by Dr. Joanna Showell, Director of Project Pericles at B-CU. “Our students especially enjoyed meeting with various organizational leaders and having personal conversations with the guest speakers,” said Dr. Showell.

Mariyah Espinoza, a sophomore Mass Communications student said, “Project Pericles was a great experience. I had the opportunity to network with numerous legislators, students from many universities, and other leaders. I’ve also learned how to create my own non-profit organization, as well as how to get involved in engaging the community to make a change on a public policy issue,” she added. Although the two students are not focused to graduate with degrees in social justice and policies, the Wildcats could not pass on the opportunity to participate in the conversation about a better tomorrow. Navickas and Espinoza encourage other students to become knowledgeable of executive policies.

 For more information, contact Dr. Joanna Showell, Associate Professor of Mass Communications, 386-481-2381 or

For media inquiries, contact Ursula James, Communications Specialist, 386-481-2975 or

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About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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