The Carl and Deborah Thomas African American Opportunity Endowment Fund

Carl and Deborah Thomas receiving the Presidential Medal

Berea College is rooted in interracial education. Help us maintain our commitment to diversity. Support the Carl and Deborah Thomas African American Opportunity Endowment Fund.

“Berea has always been committed to providing equal opportunity for all, even when the way ahead wasn’t clear. However, we know the College community didn’t always get it right—you helped us see that. You helped us do more. You helped us get where we are today. Now we are going further and are creating this fund to support the recruitment and retention of African American students.

-Carl Thomas ‘78
Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Minority Services

The Carl and Deborah Thomas African American Opportunity Endowment Fund

The fund will help provide the programs that attract and support African American Bereans. Support the young men and women who find Berea and need the Carter G. Woodson Center for support. Help them to find refuge in the Black Cultural Center and glory in the Black Music Ensemble. Give because you understand and are dedicated to fostering fellowship. Berea said “yes” to you. Please say “yes” to the Carl and Deborah Thomas African American Opportunity Endowment Fund.


Birmingham and Greenville Bereans were invited to join Dr. and Mrs. Lyle Roelofs and fellow alumni in support of the African American Opportunity Fund at Berea College.

Greenville, South Carolina

Birmingham, Alabama

Maya Riddles

“I give back to Berea because someone has invested in me to be here. Being able to give back through Berea Patrons is my way of saying, “Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity.” Someone else could have easily been in my spot and I am grateful to be here.”
-Maya Riddles ’20

Featured Programs

Black male leadership Initiative

The Black Male Initiative originally developed from a need to help support and retain African American male students. Graduation rates for African American men were as low as 34%. In response, the Black Cultural Center, in collaboration with faculty, developed strategies to support these students, from their first year through graduation. The initiative includes a tutoring and mentoring program, and structured discussions of current events, both on campus and off. Other topics of concern, such as micro-aggressions and police violence, are also discussed. Students also learn time management and study skills, as well as relationship and conflict management. (Photo left; BMLI participants gathered with members from the Farristown Baptist church at the Carter G. Woodson Center to discuss community concerns.) Learn more about the Black Male Initiative.

Christian Motley ‘09, Education Policy and Advocacy, and Charles Badger ‘11, Legislative Liaison

True Racial Understanding Through Honest Talks is a program from the campus Diversity Peer Education Team, a peer-to-peer diversity training group of students who work with other students on issues of diversity and inclusion. This group initiated T.R.U.T.H. Talks, a popular monthly event that has been adopted on other campuses. T.R.U.T.H. Talks create an environment where students can ask questions they would normally be afraid to ask. Topics have included hate speech, discrimination, police brutality, interracial dating, immigration, politics, and the history of the “N” word. Events have become a productive way of discussing race in a non-threatening environment. (See photo; Christian Motley ‘09, Education Policy and Advocacy, and Charles Badger ‘11, Legislative Liaison, speak on the 2016 presidential election at the T.R.U.T.H Talks.) Lean more about T.R.U.T.H. Talks.

Civil Rights Tour group visits Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama

The biannual Civil Rights Tour for Berea College faculty and staff is a relatively new tradition. The tour includes important sites of the Civil Rights movement in several states, including Alabama and Tennessee. The purpose of the tour is to create opportunities for faculty and staff to connect with each other and their work as Berea College educators, as well as to build community and appreciation for the work and the need for interracial education.
Sites visited on the tour include the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN; the Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, AL; the Rosa Parks Museum, Montgomery, AL; and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, AL.(See photo; Civil Rights Tour group visits Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.) 
Learn more about the Civil Rights Tour.

Maya Riddles ’20 crowned as queen of the BSU Pageant

The Black Student Union (BSU) serves as a welcoming leadership body for African American students. BSU members plan to coordinate educational, cultural, and social events for the benefit of all Berea College students. One popular event is the annual BSU Scholarship Pageant. Held during Homecoming weekend, the pageant highlights outstanding African and African American students who are actively engaged on campus and in the community. In addition, the BSU Scholarship Pageant calls attention to the idea that Black history is American history. This belief serves as an instrument for the personal growth of the contestants, as well as communal growth for the BSU and the community. (See photo; Maya Riddles ’20 crowned as queen of the BSU Pageant.) Learn more about the Black Student Union.

A 2017 graduate adorned her cap with “Black Girl Magic.”

The goal of F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. (Fierce Appropriate Beautiful Unique Love Outstanding Understanding Serious) initiative is to assist Black female students in their transition to Berea College. Through activities and scheduled programs, participants gain a better understanding of what it means to be a woman and explore their own identities as Black female college students. As a result of these activities, students feel supported and are more likely to thrive in their academic and social lives. (See photo; A 2017 graduate adorned her cap with “Black Girl Magic.”) Learn more about F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.

The Black Music Ensemble delivers a powerful performance

Since 1969, the Black Music Ensemble (BME) has been sharing music with the Berea College campus and surrounding churches and schools. The music, written by African American composers or in the African American tradition, includes spiritual, gospel, anthems, and other sacred music. In addition to supplementing religious life and expressing Christian love, the BME is dedicated to fostering a fellowship of brotherly love. This group includes members of different races, ethnic background, religious denominations, and perspectives. (See photo; The Black Music Ensemble delivers a powerful performance.) Learn more about the Black Music Ensemble.

Contact Us

Johanna Hall-RappoleeJohanna Hall-Rappolee ’14, Director of Annual Giving

Call her at 800-457-9846, ext. 3291