by Monique Holland – May 14, 2024 – Martinsville Bulletin

The local chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers celebrated its 25th anniversary with a formal banquet Friday evening.

NSBE is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States and has the mission to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.

The Martinsville and Henry County Chapter of the National Society of BlackEngineers was created 25 years ago by Helen Howell.

“We come here today to honor both the past and the present,” Destiny Johnson said.

She then introduced the charter members before Elder Samuel Redd gave the invocation and KaVaughn Muse read the mission statement. Everyone in attendance then stood to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

After a memorial for members who have passed that consisted of an adapted poem where the names of members were read aloud and a lighting of candles in honor of those members, Johnson and Anaya Maseko sang songs before the guest speaker took her place at the podium.

“It is truly a high honor to have the opportunity to speak on this momentous occasion as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Martinsville and Henry County Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers,” Rachelle Linson, daughter of founder Helen Howell, said.

In the fall of 1993, Linson, then 17 years old, applied to North Carolina A&T State University, which happened to be her parents’ alma mater where she had grown up attending college football games and visiting the campus often.

Linson was accepted and chose to attend the university, though she was also accepted to her second choice, Virginia Tech. But upon getting ready to start classes, Linson found that the college had selected a major of industrial engineering for her when her application had been for chemical engineering.

After getting that straightened out, in the fall of 1994 Linson began her freshman classes at the university and was extremely excited to be part of the school of engineering, Linson said. While there, Linson began attending meetings for NSBE.

“That young lady was so enamored with the organization,” Linson said. “It was so positive with the mission of increasing the number of culturally responsible Black engineers.”

Her junior year, Linson was awarded a scholarship from NSBE and attended a national conference for the organization.

“This was an amazing opportunity, and it provided an eye-opening experience,” she said. She added that she had never seen so many young people and professionals who aspired to be engineers and throughout her college experience, she shared the tenant of NSBE with her mother.

Linson graduated with her degree in chemical engineering in the spring of 1998 and due to her interests in NSBE and the opportunities she was able to have through the organization, her mother became interested in the organization.

In March 1999, Howell attended a national conference in Kansas City, Missouri, and took seven students with her. Linson said from that point forward, Howell was determined to bring this organization back to Martinsville and Henry County.

“My mother started this organization in June of 1999,” Linson said. “We are here this evening because of the vision that God imparted to my mother, the determination that she had to serve this community and the support that has been provided over the last 25 years.”

“Over the last 25 years, the foundation of the Martinsville and Henry County Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers has been laid,” she added. “One woman was used by God in laying a foundation in this community.”

NSBE has now been serving local students in the areas of science, technology,engineering and math those years through local programming, attending national conferences and by providing opportunities for them to learn, develop and grow.

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Photo Credit: Monique Holland, Martinsville Bulletin