On Sunday, July 9, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s Education and Scholarship Task Force (SWNA ESTF) awarded 21 Southwest youth with college scholarships. The event, “Celebrating 43 Years of Awarding College Scholarships,” with the theme “planning forward for the future” was held at Westminster Church.

In her opening remarks, Kirstin L. Jones, mistress of ceremonies and program chair of SWNA ESTF, indicated that she was proud to be a scholarship recipient since 2011 and pleased that the scholarship helped her graduate from Barnard College of Columbia University in 2015.

Jones gave a brief history of the scholarship program, noting that more than 200 students living in DC zip code 20024 have received awards ranging from $300 to $1500 to attend colleges or technical institutions over the program’s 43-year history. She emphasized the famous quote by Oprah Winfrey: “Education is the key to success, the passport to freedom” that stresses the importance of an education as the best way for young people to achieve a successful and rewarding life. Jones challenged the community to continue helping to support SW youth accomplish their goals by either tutoring, mentoring, or by donating school supplies and scholarships.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton opened the program with special remarks, congratulating the 21 award recipients and acknowledging the SWNA ESTF for their continued dedication to the futures of SW youth. She also congratulated the parents and guardians of the scholarship recipients for their support and guidance to the recipients as it takes a village to raise the children in our community. The congresswoman also spoke about the importance of helping the District residents attend college through the DC TAG program that gives up to $10,000 to students attending a public college or university and up to $2,500 for attending a private college or university.

Task force member Delmar Weathers presented the SWNA Alumni Reunion Awards to Sara (Wells) Clark. With the generous help of the SWNA Scholarship Fund and The Washington Design Center, Clark earned a bachelor of architecture from Hampton University. When not working, she enjoys spending time researching her family history, volunteering with her local church and spending time with her family.

Task force co-chair Audrey Hinton introduced the scholarship recipients and praised them for their exemplary character, leadership skills, scholarship, and commitment to family and community service. The students’ proud parents and other family members were recognized as the students were applauded and presented with a laminated certificate of congratulations for their academic achievement. The 21 SWNA scholarship recipients for 2017 are: Samantha R. Anderson, Alysha Berry, Tantania Y. Brown, Dannielle R. Crutchfield, Autumn C. Culbreath, Janine D. Foster, Roman P. Hamilton, Dayon T. Lewis-Thomas, Kiana B. Livingston, Tiffany Livingston, Asha R. Marshall, Jada Miles, Marlon Mitchell, Akil Mondie, Nicolas D. Moses, Philip O’Sullivan, Najma A. Pettiford, Moshawn C. Short, Zanaya Q. Smith, Breanna N. Walton, and Caitlin A. Whitter.

Co-chair Vyllorya Evans recognized the three 2017 SWNA scholarship recipient graduates: Gary T. Hill, Haili Blassingame, and Tsahai A. Pettiford. Hill graduated from Cheyney University in Pennsylvania with a B.A. in early childhood education and plans to become a teacher. He is a member of Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society. Blassingame graduated from Spelman College with a degree in international studies. She spent the fall 2015 semester in Nice, France, and will be apart of Teach for America in Atlanta for the next two years. Pettiford graduated from Philadelphia University and majored in architecture. She is a member of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students.

In her closing remarks, Former ESTF chairperson Thelma D. Jones, who also chairs SWNA Youth Activities Task Force, stressed the importance of giving back to the community and highlighting the accomplishments of our SW youth. Jones wishes for more programs and news that celebrate the great things that our youth are doing in the neighborhood. She expressed her appreciation for the support the SWNA ESTF has received from the Southwest community over the past 42 years. Jones also acknowledged the individuals and organizations who have donated $1,000 or more for the 2017 scholarships. They are: Friends of Southwest DC, JMA Solutions, and Camille Cook. Friends of Southwest DC increased the number of scholarships they fund from two to three this year. The students selected to receive the Friends of Southwest DC awards are Samantha R. Anderson, Dannielle R. Crutchfield, and Caitlin A. Whitter.

Evans also gave special thanks for support to Westminster Church, Jazz Night in DC, task force members (Audrey Hinton, Rick Bardach, Kendra Bellamy, Nanette Cothran, Cheryl Hansberry Moore, Peri Hamlin, Thelma D. Jones, Dale MacIver, Dena Walker, Delmar Weathers, Bianca Kersellius, Kirstin L. Jones Bonita White, and Kathy Williams), and other volunteers.

ESTF is still accepting donations so that it can fulfill its goal of giving each of the 20 students a $1500 scholarship. If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to this worthy cause, please make your check payable to SWNA and mail it to: SWNA Scholarship Fund, PO Box 70131, Washington, DC 20024-0131. Also, if you have any questions regarding ESTF or would like to volunteer, please call Evans at (202)257-7619 or email vylloryaevans@gmail.com.

By Kirstin L. Jones

Photo caption: (Left to right) Tsahai Pettiford, Dannielle R. Crutchfield, Autumn C. Culbreath, Najma A. Pettiford, Nicolas Moses, Akil Mondie, Philip O’Sullivan, Tantania Brown, Congresswoman Eleanor Norton Holmes, Asha R. Marshall, Janine D. Foster, Samantha R. Anderson, Dayon T. Lewis-Thomas. (Rear) Moshawn C. Short.

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