CSU student aims to revolutionize agriculture in Bahamas


WILBERFORCE — The American Heart Association has accepted Chantinae Gray, a Central State University junior, into the 2023-24 HBCU Scholars Program.

An Honors College student majoring in sustainable agriculture and agroecology with a minor in biology, Gray continues the Central State legacy in the AHA HBCU Scholars Program. Three CSU students participated in the 2022-23 program.

According to its website, the program aims “to increase the number of black students who apply and are accepted into graduate science, research and public health programs.”

Black Americans are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. A 2021 Pew Research Center article said, “Black students earned 7 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees as of 2018, the most recent year available, below their share of all bachelor’s degrees (10 percent) or their share of the adult population (12 percent).”

HBCUs, like Central State University, educate 8.5 percent of black undergraduate students, but they account for nearly 18 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees, according to the National Science Foundation in 2020.

The AHA HBCU Scholars Program provides students like Gray with opportunities to learn about their communities, participate in ground-breaking research, and receive invaluable mentorship.

“The AHA HBCU Scholars Program will provide me with the tools I need to overcome obstacles that have prevented black women from being represented in STEM fields. By embracing this intriguing journey, I may greatly improve scientific understanding while promoting a diverse and inclusive scientific community for future generations,” Gray said.

Originally from Nassau, Bahamas, Gray intends to “revolutionize agriculture in the Bahamas” after graduating from Central State.

The Bahamas utilizes nearly a billion dollars annually on importing goods, according to Trading Economics, and Gray plans to implement innovative approaches to locally produced goods.

“My mission extends beyond merely feeding our population; it aspires to elevate our standard of living,” Gray said. She cites the abundance of health issues in the Bahamas, including cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart ailments (all of which are leading causes of death in the Bahamas, according to Statista).

“By redefining agricultural practices, I aim to contribute to a healthier, more sustainable future for our people, combating these health challenges head-on. It is with pride that I say I am determined to make a positive impact and create a brighter and healthier future for the Bahamas through agricultural innovation,” Gray said.

Gray attributes the skills she has learned at Central State to preparing her to achieve her goals. She has taken on a number of leadership roles including junior class president, president of the Golden Key International Honors Society, and a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society and International Student Organization.

“Central State University, an 1890 Land-Grant Institution, has greatly shaped my academic and personal journey as an agriculture major aspiring to redefine agriculture in the Bahamas,” Gray said. “As an undergraduate research assistant, I have gained priceless experience in diverse areas, encouraging confidence in my field and defying gender norms as a woman in STEM. The university’s environment, coupled with hands-on mentorship, has expanded my perspectives, and deepened my passion for agriculture. Central State’s unwavering support has fueled my determination to contribute meaningfully to the advancement of agriculture in the Bahamas, driving me to build a sustainable and prosperous future for my homeland and beyond.”

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