By Audrey Hinton, Member, SWNA Education and Scholarship Task Force

At left (in yellow) is Donna Purchase, Acting President of SWNA. At center (in yellow) is Jan Adams of JMA Solutions. At right (in gray) is Coralie Farlee, President of Friends of Southwest DC. The Friends of Southwest DC is sponsoring five students for the 2019-2020 academic year; Photo by Perry Klein

On Sunday, Aug. 4, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s Education and Scholarship Task Force (SWNA ESTF) awarded 19 Southwest youths with college scholarships. The event, “45 Years of Awarding College Scholarships,” was held at Westminster Church, with Bonita V. White, ESTF member, serving as Mistress of Ceremonies. 

In her opening remarks, Donna Purchase, Acting President of SWNA, spoke of ESTF’s goal of encouraging and assisting youth in DC’s Ward 6 to pursue a secondary education. Purchase said, “We have learned that obtaining such an education is the surest way for our young people to carve out a successful and rewarding life for themselves.” She also thanked attendees for their generous contributions to the scholarship program which, for over 45 years, has awarded more than 400 scholarships, totaling more than $250,000, to approximately 200 neighborhood youth.  

Peri Hamlin, another ESTF member, spoke about the importance of giving back to the community in her introduction of guest speaker Jan Adams, a philanthropist and President and CEO of JMA Solutions—a management services firm headquartered in Southwest.  

Adams advised the students about the importance of having a mentor. She encouraged them to identify two or three people who they think can assist them in achieving their goals, talk with those people about their ideas, then to follow through with what they suggest. “A true mentor,” she said, “will want you to be better than they are.” Adams also advised the students about the importance of giving back to their community with money or time or both. “I would not be in the position I am in today,” she said, “without mentorship, giving back, and a strong support circle. In order to fly, you must build your wings, and your wings are the people who you surround yourself with.” In her closing remarks, Adams stated that she would be donating $10,000 to the scholarship program the next day—she received a standing ovation. 

Many in the audience sang along with Edward Yarsky, a 2018-2019 scholarship recipient and accomplished musician, while he played his guitar and sang Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”  

Perry Klein, Chair, SWNA Technology Task Force, announced that computers are available to any students who received scholarships. So far, three students have received them. 

Ava Millstone and Alex O’Sullivan discussed the tutoring program at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, which was started in 2019 by ESTF under the leadership of Robert St. Cyr. Millstone, Tutoring Coordinator, noted that students came into the program two or three grade levels behind in math. At the end of the year, almost all the students were either at grade level or slightly behind. Students who were not in the program, however, did not show similar improvements. O’Sullivan, a 10th grade student at Basis Charter School and a Tutor of the Month at Amidon-Bowen, said that tutoring has been a very fulfilling experience for him and that he is impressed by how eager the students are to learn. Both encouraged attendees to become tutors. 

Benjamin C. Sands, Jr., a musician, educator and visual artist who was a 1975-1977 scholarship recipient, performed an original piano composition and  encouraged all to attend the August 9th Jazz Night event where he would premier his autobiographical presentation of art, music and the spoken word. During the Jazz Night event, $4,000 was raised for ESTF’s 2019 scholarship program. 

ESTF member Delmar Weather introduced the scholarship recipients and presented each with a laminated certificate of congratulations for their academic achievement. They are:  Sam Anderson, Raven Berry, Monique Chambers, Danielle Crutchfield, Nicla DiBiasi, Daytia Foote, Roman Hamilton, Christopher Johnson, Omar Mahmoud, Jada Miles, Nicholas Moses, Phillip O’Sullivan, Samantha O’Sullivan, Kendall Parks, Najma Pettiford, Dayonna Queen, Aaliyah Wilkinson, Donja Wilkinson, and Edward Yarsky.

ESTF Chair Vyllorya Evans expressed her appreciation for the support ESTF has received over the years from the Friends of Southwest DC (FOS) and presented its president, Coralie Farlee, with an Award of Special Recognition. Over the past 10 years, FOS has awarded more than 30 students almost $50,000.

With the celebration coming to a close, Thelma D. Jones, Chair, SWNA Youth Activities Task Force, graciously thanked the audience for their continued support and investment in Southwest youth. She also shared how ESTF, the Technology Task Force and YATF worked closely together, noting that at least four YATF Computers-for-Kids students are recipients of scholarship awards. Jones reminded the audience that ESTF is still accepting donations so that it can fulfill its goal of giving each of the 19 students a $1,500 scholarship. 

To make a tax-deductible donation to this worthy cause, please make your check payable to SWNA, noting Scholarship in the memo line, and mail it to: SWNA Scholarship Fund, PO Box 70131, Washington, DC 20024-0131.

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