By Audrey Hinton, SWNA Education and Scholarship Task Force Member

On Sunday, Aug. 2, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Education and Scholarship Task Force (SWNA ESTF) held its 46th Annual Scholarship Awards Program and awarded $40,500 in scholarships. 

Nearly 150 viewers joined the pre-recorded virtual event, “Supporting Education – Building Community,” as 24 Southwest students shared their college plans and future aspirations in short videos and received college scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $3,000. Viewers also watched the awarding of first-time scholarships in memory of three Southwest giants and were invited to attend a virtual VIP reception after the awards program to discuss the impact of SWNA on the lives of students, the Southwest community, and the world. 

ESTF Chair Vyllorya Evans introduced host Kenneth Ward, a long-time Southwest resident and Executive Director of College Bound, a mentoring program that works with underserved youth. Ward expressed his pleasure in hosting a program that celebrates the Southwest community and creates educational opportunities for Southwest youth. He introduced Phillip O’Sullivan and Jada Miles, two 2020 ESTF scholarship graduates. Phillip graduated from the University of Chicago with a major in U.S. History and minor in Mathematics and will enter Harvard Law School in 2022. Jada, who participated in the College Bound program, graduated from Dean College in Massachusetts and majored in Business Management with a minor in Dance. Viewers watched a video of her exciting tap dance performance, “What’s Going On,” in a face mask, on Black Lives Matter Plaza.  

Donna Purchase, SWNA president, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) presented SWNA Star Awards to Barbara Murray and Thelma D. Jones, respectively, for their extraordinary service and commitment to the Southwest community. Murray, who lives in South Carolina now, chaired the Scholarship Committee from 1992-2007 and raised $175,000 that funded 247 scholarships for 103 students. Norton took a moment to remember her colleagues in SNCC and the late Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) before recognizing Jones, who is chair of SWNA’s Youth Activities Task Force, as a person who “exemplifies the traits of Congressman Lewis on a community and citywide level.” 

ESTF committee member Bonita V. White spoke passionately about a new ESTF award, the Helena Day Kirkland Scholarship, which is named in honor of her kindergarten teacher.  Kirkland was born in Southwest in 1904 and had a 50-year career as an educator in the D.C. public schools. “Kirkland instilled an unparalleled sense of excellence in all who were privileged to be in her classroom … and laid the foundation for the successful careers of thousands,” White said.  Nicholas (Nick) Moses received the new scholarship for exemplifying Kirkland’s standards of trustworthiness, obedience to elders and parents, reverence to God, and community service. He is a Psychology major at Colorado Technical University and plans to be a teacher.

Thelma D. Jones presented the first-ever Dale MacIver Scholarship to Khalil Warren, a freshman at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania who plans to major in information technology. MacIver was a long-time Southwest resident who passed away in November 2019. He was editor of The Southwester for over 33 years, a philanthropist, and an advocate of paying it forward. “Dale would not have agreed to having an award in his name as he never appreciated the limelight or being the focus of attention,” Jones said, “but he probably would have agreed since the award has a fundraising component.” She closed by presenting a gift card – compliments of Resail “Bay Bay” Shannon, a former scholarship recipient and mentee of Dale MacIver. Jones also presented a $200 check to SWNA and challenged others to give what they can, “…so that Southwest youth will have a fighting chance in MacIver’s honor.” 

Peter Eicher, President of the Friends of Southwest DC (FOS), presented the Coralie Farlee Scholarship to Dannielle Crutchfield. The scholarship was created to honor Farlee, who passed away earlier this year, and FOS, the organization she founded that contributed $51,000 to the scholarship program over the past 20 years. “Coralie was a giant in our quadrant of D.C.,” Eicher said, “especially through the broad range of nonprofits she participated in and supported.”  Crutchfield is a senior at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore studying agriculture with a concentration in pre-vet and animal sciences. Eicher said he was honored to present the scholarship to such an inspirational and talented young woman who has a lot in common with Coralie. “Both are self-starters, worked hard to finance their college educations, believe in the need to be involved in peace, freedom and social justice, and found time in their lives for the arts,” he said.

Eicher also presented five, $1500 scholarships on behalf of FOS. “Over the years, this has been our largest single grant. We have been honored to participate in the SWNA program, which helps young people achieve their dreams of higher education.” The recipients, selected by FOS for their grade point averages, number and scope of their extra-curricular activities, work experience, sterling letters of recommendation, and community service, are: Steven Guo, Eleanor Holt, Sydney King, Anika Richard, and Aidan Smith.

ESTF members Audrey Hinton and John White presented scholarships to the remaining 16 scholars. They praised the students for their exemplary character, leadership skills, scholarship, commitment to family, and community service. They are: Tasia Bailey, Dia’Mynnh Brown, Gabriella Grimaldi, Dehja Harris, Grace Jenkins, Lethuxolo Mlipha, Sam Anderson, Monique Chambers, Nicla De Biasi, Christopher Johnson, Samantha O’Sullivan, Kendall V. Parks, Dayonna Queen, Aaliyah Wilkinson, Donja Wilkinson, and Edward “Ned” Yarsky.

The program drew to a close with an inspirational message to the students from Ben Sands, a 1975-1977 scholarship recipient and saxophonist known as “Southwest’s Favorite Son”; Robert St. Cyr’s good news about the successful collaboration between ESTF and Community Scholars on the tutoring program at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School; a message from Laura Howell, a sustaining monthly donor, encouraging viewers to consider giving on a monthly basis; and a moving performance by Edward “Ned” Yarsky who sang and played the guitar to “A Change is Gonna Come.”

SWNA Scholarship supporters participated in a live Zoom session moderated by Kenneth Ward after the awards program. Delmar Weathers, a member of ESTF, and Jan Adams, a Southwest resident and long-time major donor to the program, greeted scholarship recipients. Participants heard directly from scholarship recipients, past and present about their experiences, future plans, and the value of the scholarship to them.

As participants learned more about the program, they offered their support, both financially and as volunteers and mentors. A specific suggestion was to engage Southwest residents as mentors to the scholarship recipients. College Bound offers mentoring to high school and college students, so there is potential for a partnership between the organizations. Another recommendation was to send care packages, which ESTF distributed to scholarship recipients on Friday, Aug. 14. There was also discussion about the importance of asking the scholars about their mental health and well-being. Many students talked about how the scholarship helps to relieve their stress and college debt. Supporters also heard from Peter Eicher; Westminster Presbyterian Church Co-Pastor Ruth Hamilton, whose son was a past scholarship recipient; Donna Purchase; Rhonda Hamilton, ANC Commissioner; Perry Klein, Chair, SWNA Technology Task Force; and Naomi Mitchell, liaison to Charles Allen.

In her closing remarks, Evans expressed her appreciation for the support the Education and Scholarship Task Force has received from the Southwest community over the past 46 years.  

She gave thanks to Kenneth Ward for hosting the program and his counsel on how to put a virtual program together. She also gave special thanks to Vania Georgieva and Bruce Moody who spent countless hours planning, editing and producing the recorded portion of the Awards Program, and to Perry Kline for assisting with the program and providing laptops for students.

Based on comments from viewers, ESTF’s first-ever virtual awards program was a huge success.  They were amazed by the outstanding scholars, wise words from community leaders, and the number of new supporters and volunteers. In expressing her praise of the program, Southwest neighbor Debbie Jefferson wrote, “I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s virtual SWNA Scholarship program via Zoom. The SWNA ESTF put on a stellar presentation that highlighted each award recipient, allowing them to briefly share their aspirations and heartfelt appreciation to SWNA and scholarship supporters. This diverse group of multi-talented youngsters well represents Southwest’s rich and vibrant legacy of movers and shakers. One could only be proud of our youth and wish each and every one of them the very best in their future endeavors.”

You may view the Awards Program at our website swnascholarship.org. 

For more information on College Bound, go to CollegeBound.org. If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to this worthy cause, please donate online following the donate link on our website or make your check payable to SWNA and mail it to: SWNA Scholarship Fund, PO Box 70131, Washington, DC 20024-0131.

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