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She Got Now Honors HBCU Achievements

A Norfolk State University student and an alumna were recently honored by a collaboration between Pepsi and Essence. Political science major Symone Thomas and Paralympic gold medalist April Holmes ’96 were recognized as part of the second She Got Now program which launched last year. The program celebrates the brilliant women whose HBCU education has propelled them to great opportunities.

This year the event, which is also a homecoming celebration for HBCU students and alumni, was held Oct. 24 and 25 was held virtually and held two days for the first time.

The following biographies attest to why Thomas and Holmes were selected as this year’s honorees from Norfolk State. NSU President Javaune Adams-Gaston introduced them as part of the program.

Symone Thomas

(photo by Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian Pilot)(photo by Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian Pilot)

Symone Thomas is a senior Political Science major from Killeen, Texas with a 3.7 GPA in her courses at Norfolk State University and is a member of the RC Nusbaum Honors College. Thomas spent a year working to get students not just registered to vote but also to follow through and cast their vote in the 2020 election. She is member of the NSU Student Athlete-Advisory Committee, which developed the Spartan Vote project as part of the Campus Vote Project. The Campus Vote Project works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting. But her involvement and activism didn’t stop there. Thomas, who is a member of the Women’s Volleyball team, is also the Norfolk State University Student Representative on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Student Advisory Committee, President of the Norfolk State University chapter of the Young Democrats, First Vice President of the NAACP Chapter at Norfolk State University, a Student Ambassador, a member of The National Council of Negro Women, and an Army ROTC Cadet. She will be commissioned as a second lieutenant when she graduates in May 2021.

April Holmes ’96

April Holmes was a track and field standout at Norfolk State University. In 2001, she was involved in a train accident that resulted in the loss of her left leg below the knee. While she lay in her hospital bed, a doctor told her about the Paralympic Games and three goals were firmly implanted in her mind — to wear the USA uniform, to break world records and to win gold medals. Over her astonishing career, Holmes was honored to wear the USA uniform at every major championship between 2002 and 2016. She has put together several undefeated seasons, broken IPC World Records 14 times and American Records 18 times in the 100, 200, 400 meters and the long jump, won 3 Paralympic medals (1 Gold, 2 Bronze); and 5 World Championship medals. With a commanding lead over the growing field of competitors, Holmes had a way of captivating track enthusiast with her grace and style. Off the track, Holmes runs the April Holmes Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization assisting people with physical and learning disabilities with scholarships and medical equipment.

To watch the She Got Now awards, visit

Go to See What You Missed on Day One, then scroll right and click on She Got Now 2020 Honorees: Norfolk State University