As we kick off Women’s History Month, which has a 2017 theme of “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business,” it is fitting that the Forward Times honor a woman who has reached a new milestone that stands to dramatically impact public policy and the lives of minority youth destined to help lead the world of tomorrow.

For the first time in its more than four decade history, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), which awards hundreds of fellowships and internships to minorities each year and conducts relevant research that provides insight into combatting the many issues affecting the African American community, has elected its first female member of Congress, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of the 18th Congressional District of Texas, as its chairperson. The election, which was moved to be unanimous, was just held this year.

This is not Congresswoman Jackson Lee’s first time being the first woman to break that glass ceiling. She was also in the first class of women to attend Yale University and graduated with honors in Political Science. She is serving her 12th term as a member of the United States House of Representatives. She sits on three Congressional Committees — a senior member of the House Committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security and newly appointed by the leadership as a Member of the crucial Budget Committee. She is also the first female Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee for Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. Her leadership was highlighted by ‘Congressional Quarterly’ when they named her as one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress and the ‘U.S. News and World Report’ named her as one of the 10 most influential legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congresswoman Jackson is no stranger to the CBCF, and has been actively involved with it for years, serving as Co-Chair of the Annual Legislative Conference, and most recently as the Boards Vice-Chair. As Chair, Congresswoman Jackson Lee will help lead the CBCF at a time of exponential growth with the expansion of the Leadership Institute education programs, the Center for Policy Analysis and Research New Horizon Initiatives.

“This opportunity to serve as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation with the confidence of my colleagues and fellow board members gives me the opportunity to play a crucial role in new developments of public policy that impacts all of us and at the same time develop future leaders to implement and administer those policies,” stated Congresswoman Jackson Lee.

The mission of the CBCF is to advance the global African American community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public. Its vision is for all communities to have an equal voice in public policy through leadership cultivation, economic empowerment, and civic engagement. In this newly-elected role, Congresswoman Jackson Lee plans to work with her fellow board members and with her Congressional Black Caucus colleagues to advance the CBCF’s mission to positively impact the future by investing in children and bringing more of the resources of the CBCF outside of the beltway.

Although the CBCF is best known for their annual legislative conference (ALC) which takes place every year in Washington, D.C. and draws thousands of leaders from all around America and from around the world, the bulk of their work is to help shape the leaders of tomorrow through internships, scholarships, foreign exchange programs, research, and economic development. The CBCF has awarded an estimated over million dollars of scholarships to talented and deserving students for nearly three decades. Each year, the CBCF awards more than 200 scholarships to students across the United States. Recipients demonstrate leadership ability through exemplary community service and academic talent, while other received need-based scholarships to reward their persistence in pursuing a quality education. The CBCF scholarship programs support current or upcoming college students across a variety of disciplines. The CBCF has also placed more than 150 Congressional Fellows since 1976 and produced more than 1,500 alumni in our Leadership Institute for Public Service since 2000. It has also brought together the nation’s top policy experts, legislators, community leaders and citizen activists to address disparities in education, economic opportunity, public health and the environment through research, forums, brain trusts, town halls and policy briefings.

“We have to look forward in an ever changing and technological world, but we also have to develop strong leaders who can be agents of change in an unpredictable and sometime fragile world,” said Congresswoman Jackson Lee. “We welcome the opportunity to help steer the CBCF in this noble endeavor that is so vital to our children’s future. We look forward to working with our new outstanding Board to help make the CBCF stronger than ever by supporting more research and policy work that will embolden the Congressional Black Caucus legislative agenda of service; and to educate the public about what the CBCF has been doing every day in the African American community.”

Congresswoman Jackson Lee will lead an organization that expands into the following areas:

1. The Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR) identifies, analyzes and disseminates policies and policy-related information critical to the economic independence, quality education and health equity of African Americans. The Leadership Institute’s goal is to increase the pool of Black leaders in public service careers and public policy positions through providing fellowships, internships, and scholarships.

2. CBCF’s internship programs prepare college students and young professionals to become principled leaders, skilled policy analysts, and informed advocates by exposing them to the processes that develop national policies and implement them – from Capitol Hill to federal field offices.

3. The new Pathways to the C-Suite Internship Program partners undergraduate and post-graduate African American students with some of the nation’s top executives in the private sector to experience how public policy is influenced and developed at every level of the process.

4. The CBCF in partnership with the government of Japan has selected 15 participants for the 2017 CBCF Emerging Leaders Program: Japan Exchange Program “KAKEHASHI Project”. Through this initiative, the CBCF, the Embassy of Japan, and the Japanese International Cultural Center aim to increase African American interest in and exposure to the culture of Japan, thereby expanding opportunities for African Americans in an era of increasing globalization.

5. The China Study Abroad Program contains a diverse offering of educational activities and excursions taking place over two weeks in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Students have the opportunity to attend lectures on Chinese history and culture, US-China relations, and China’s economic development. Further, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has sponsored a youth delegation from Houston for the last three years in collaboration with our local community college.

6. Emerge 535 is the CBCF’s campaign to place 535 African American interns on Capitol Hill. Nearly three decades ago, the CBCF initiated the Congressional Internship program to address underrepresentation of African Americans among professional staffers on Capitol Hill. The goal of Emerge 535 is to place an intern in every Member of Congress office.

7. The AVOICE project was developed by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. to capture the history of the participation and contribution of African Americans in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate which is central to the policy development and educational mission of the CBCF.

8. The Executive Economic Summit is a high profile invitation-only Summit which provides unprecedented access to some of the nation’s most compelling business and marketplace thought leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, investment groups, financial professionals and policy makers.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee and her fellow CBCF board members have a lot to tackle in 2017.

The 2017 officers of the CBCF Board of Directors include: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chair; Cathy Hughes, Vice Chair; Earle Jones, Secretary; Kevin Brown, Treasurer, and A. Shaunise Washington, President and CEO. Board Members include: Ms. Pamela G. Alexander, Mr. Victor Anger, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Ms. Lori Billingsley, Mr. Ronald Blaylock, Ms. Aisha Bowe, Mr. George R. Burrell, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II, Mr. James H. Colon, Rep. Keith Ellison, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Ms. Denise James Gatling, Mr. Hill Harper, Rep. Alcee Hastings, Ms. Janice Bryant Howroyd, Rep. Hank Johnson, Mr. Lonnie L. Johnson, Ms. Tammy Jones, Ms. Ingrid Saunders Jones, Ms. Vivienne C. LaBorde, Rep. Brenda Lawrence, Ms. DeDe Lea, Judge Greg Mathis, Rep. Gwen Moore, Dr. Troy L. Nash, Rep. Terri Sewell, Ms. Sharon C. Taylor, Mr. John Thompson, Mr. Emmett Vaughn, Kevin Washington, Rep. Cedric Richmond, Ex Officio, Mr. Chaka Burgess, Ex Officio, Mrs. Tonya Veasey, Ex Officio, Ms. Amy Robertson Goldson, Ex Officio.