BOSTON (SHNS) – Black leaders from Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healey and members of her Cabinet on Tuesday gathered at the State House to celebrate the largest donation to the United Negro College Fund in its history.

Boston-based Fidelity Investments donated $190 million to UNCF as part of a $250 million Invest in My Education initiative announced in January. The program is intended to provide access to education for up to 50,000 Black, Latinx, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander students over the next five years.

The $190 million carved out for UNCF will be spent on direct scholarships, Pamela Everhart, Fidelity senior vice president and head of regional public affairs and community relations said on Tuesday.

“Not only will we invest in scholarships for students, but we’re also funding ecosystem grants to those nonprofit organizations, those on the ground who are committed to getting students from high school to college,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure that students finish college and graduate without college debt.”

Everhart encouraged every one of the hundreds of attendees in front of the State House’s Grand staircase on Tuesday to “find one young individual in greater Boston who has full potential, and invite them to apply.”

“The design of this program is specifically geared to the mighty-middle, students with 2.5 to 3.5 grade point averages, who are often overlooked for scholarship opportunities and need significant financial support,” said Larry Griffith, UNCF’s senior vice president of programs and services.

Student participants must pursue a bachelor’s or an associate degree at an accredited not-for-profit, four-year, or two-year college or university, or a not-for-profit certificate program within their state. The program encourages students who want to attend minority serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“The participating colleges and universities include HBCUs, state funded, small private schools and community colleges that do the heavy lifting, but don’t often have the financial resources to support their students,” said president of Clark Atlanta University George French, Jr.

The Fidelity Scholars Program will launch for students in Massachusetts, Texas and North Carolina in the fall of 2023, and will ultimately expand to New Jersey, New Mexico, Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Colorado and Utah.

Though brought together by the announcement of the multi-million dollar grant, Tuesday’s event was also a general celebration of Black civic participation in Massachusetts and HBCUs.

Rep. Russell Holmes of Boston encouraged attendees to get more involved in advocacy and to “take ownership” of the State House.

“Don’t show up here just now,” Holmes said. “What needs to happen, I need you to climb these steps… because I can tell you the advocacy that happens in this building is intense. And it happens every day. And our voice is not heard, it is not heard because we don’t pack a room like we’re packing today. So the next time we’re going to fight — because guess what, the fight is coming — I want to see you here.”

Chief Secretary in Healey’s office April English, a graduate of HBCU Spelman College, said the Healey administration was committed to the “deep history” and “tremendous talent” at HBCUs.

“[HBCUs] were founded at a time when Black people were denied admission into higher education institutions,” English said. “HBCUs are home… HBCUs are family. And speaking of family, my governor — our governor — is a true ally of HBCUs.”

Though there are currently no HBCUs in New England (though there has been recent discussion on if Roxbury Community College should qualify as historically Black) the governor said there were graduates of the schools in her administration and leading industries in the state.

After her introduction by English, when Healey took to the lectern on Tuesday she had tears in her eyes.

“I just need a moment because this is very emotional for me,” she said. “I think that all of us in the room understand that representation matters. Having a seat at the table matters. You can be in rooms with all sorts of well intentioned, good people, but absent lived experience and true diversity around those tables, participating in those conversations, formulating policy, passing legislation and implementing laws.”

Healey said English is working to ensure diversity on state boards and commissions.

“We are committed to delivering on equity, inclusion and justice for all. There’s a reason why I asked all Cabinet members to be here today. Because equity, as I’ve said, is going to be something that lives and breathes through the work of this administration,” Healey said.

She addressed the National Elementary Honor Society students from Mission Grammar School in Roxbury sitting behind her on the staircase, saying she was “inspired by the young people,” and invited them to stand for a round of applause from the audience.

“I just want to say, happy Black History Month,” Healey said. “Black history is American history, and we will celebrate, we will remember, and we will learn. And in that learning we will all be better.”