AT&T Rising Future Makers- Header Update_September 2023 | Urban One | 2023-08-21

AT&T Dream in Black is proud to celebrate the achievements of HBCU students and support them in their journey to reach greater possibilities. Now in its third year, the AT&T Rising Future Makers program is highlighting the importance of building positive connections, mentorship, and advocacy by linking current HBCU students with notable HBCU alumni who have excelled in their desired career field.

In episode one of The Futurist presented by AT&T Rising Future Makers—a series that showcases HBCU students who are making a difference in their communities—we meet Shawn Kelly Smith, a current theatre major at Howard University. The rising actor sat down with Lance Gross, award-winning actor, writer and producer, to talk about his HBCU journey, the connections that propelled him forward, and creating diverse representation in TV and film.

From Dreams To Reality

Smith’s vision is to produce more complex and layered depictions of Black characters in TV and film. “A lot of our stories fall into a certain category or tropes. There are so many genres,  spectrums, and topics that we could tackle … so why is it not there?” says the up-and-coming actor.

Smith appreciates the power of connection and seeks out collaborators at every opportunity. “I think it’s about collaborations. I try my best on campus to reach out. Like, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Who’s doing a new short film, who’s writing a new play’ … and really getting involved in that. Because those are the people you’re going into the industry with,” he says.

As an actor, connection is also a necessary element in performing. “You have to connect to the words on the page, you have to connect to the backstory, you have to even connect with the crew. That’s the only way you can make the magic happen. It’s what we do,” says Gross, a fellow HBCU alum who also studied theatre.

To support Shawn in taking his dreams to new heights, Lance presents him with an award of $5,000 courtesy of AT&T Dream in Black to fuel his vision and continue to make a positive impact. “This is going to be what I use to bring the visions that I was talking about to reality … and give back,” Smith says.

Apply To The AT&T Rising Future Makers Showcase

If you are or know of a currently enrolled HBCU student, between the ages of 18 to 25, apply now for the AT&T Rising Future Makers Showcase and $5,000 could be yours.

The application process is officially open for the upcoming cohort of students, offering them the chance to elevate their dreams with unmatched connections, networks, and opportunities that will drive their ambitions forward.

Learn more and apply before November 6th at