Extending the dialogue: Centre students, staff attend Black Student-Athlete Summit
Transformative experiences at Centre College inspire students to be change-makers and engage in challenging conversation beyond.
Three students and two staff members at the College recognized as much after attending the Black Student-Athlete Summit in Los Angeles last month: An event held for the “holistic development of the Black student-athlete.”
“One of the overarching goals was to bring ideas back to campus, but also it was important to send athletes to a summit that is for them, in a space with others who have similar experiences, bringing perspective that they might not have thought about before,” said Jessica Chisley ’04, assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion programming at Centre. “It was a way to create space for students that I don’t know that we’ve done before.”
Chisley and Xavier Tomlin ’19, a men’s soccer assistant coach, attended the summit with the students.
“The Black Student-Athlete Summit provided a great opportunity for our students to not only build relationships with those similar to them across the country, but it was also an opportunity to meet with industry leaders who are paving the way for careers they may pursue,” Tomlin said.
Sports were only one part of the discussion at the Summit: leaders from the world of business, film, real estate and clothing held talks, as well, Chisley said.
Three students made the trip from Danville to the University of Southern California, where the event was held: First-year football player Jalen Deadwyler and class of 2025 members Jamikel James (football) and Mark Pyburn (baseball).
James was so inspired that he returned to campus and asked about Colonels United, an arm of Centre Athletics that promotes and encourages diversity within the athletics program.
“My lack of exposure to individuals who live a similar experience as me —and also want a successful, professional career — delayed my growth, and the speakers at the BSA Summit were able to fill a lifelong void,” James said. “Hearing them speak and reflect on their journey was so inspiring considering it was the first time I was completely immersed around people with similar experiences and similar aspirations, not one or the other."
Gina Nicoletti-Bellinger, senior associate athletic director, noted that James’ experience was one she hopes encourages more students in the future.
“I think we started in a really good place with five representatives from Centre going,” she said. “We're looking forward to building upon this experience and expanding it for others, continuing to get feedback from student-athletes so that we can better meet the needs and support our Black student-athletes.”
Nicoletti-Bellinger said that students attended thanks to a partnership with the College’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, along with NCAA Diversity Grant and athletic department funds.
Pictured at top, from left: Mark Pyburn, Jessica Chisley '04, Jamikel James, Jalen Deadwyler and Xavier Tomlin '19 attended the Black Student-Athlete Summit in May 2023.