by Tim Allston


[Tim Allston is the public relations director for Oakwood University]

In The Home Depot® 2013 “Retool Your School” Campus Improvement Grant Program for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Oakwood University – one of the smallest HBCUs, and lone SDA contestant – is currently besting larger competitors for the $50,000 prize.

As the world's largest home improvement specialty retailer, The Home Depot will award $195,000 – one $50,000 Tier I Grant for the school that receives the most votes and social media activity, one $25,000 Campus Pride Grant and twelve $10,000 Tier II Grants.
Since the contest’s February 18 kick-off, it’s been a daily neck-and-neck battle for the #1 spot, between the 1939-student OU and the 4,000-plus University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the Princess Anne, Maryland branch of the 13-campus University System of Maryland. A David vs. Goliath in higher education?

For six days each week, at least.

“There is a noticeable drop in social media voting from Oakwood and our supporters – and a tremendous upsurge to #1,for UMES – at Friday-night sunset, but a re-capturing of the top spot for Oakwood following sunset Saturday evening – and we know why!” mused Ms. Kisha Norris, Executive Director for Advancement & Development at Oakwood. “We’re planning to win this contest – not solely for the money and campus improvements, but even more importantly for the witnessing opportunity of Sabbath observance it gives us, not only with The Home Depot, but with all onlookers.”

Oakwood as the 21st century “Hebrew Boys”? It’s not the first time.

  1. In 2008 and 2009, Oakwood won the Honda’s national HBCU quiz-bowl  tournament while refusing to compete in Sabbath contests,; and
  2. In both 2008 and 2012, OU’s men’s basketball team won its national championships, as its athletic conference honored its Sabbath observance,, and

“It is our custom at Oakwood to begin formal meetings and informal gatherings with prayer,” Norris added. “However, now with this RYS campaign, campus meetings still begin with prayer but, increasingly, the presiding person will then say, ‘Amen, . . . Now, please pull out your electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.), . . . go to, . . . click on The Home Depot icon, . . . and now, please vote! Thank you all. The meeting will now come to order,’ . . ."!

Oakwood plans to build an outdoor pavilion, equipped with outdoor kitchen appliances, grills and fireplaces. The Tier II grant funds would cover the costs of re-seed and install sprinkler systems for the softball and football fields.

Vote for Oakwood at, then click on the Home Depot icon, or use hashtag #OakwoodRYS2013.