By Audrey Hinton, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Education and Scholarship Task Force

The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s (SWNA) Education and Scholarship Task Force held its 47th annual scholarship awards program on August 15, awarding 23 young people $50,000 in college scholarships.  

About 100 viewers joined the pre-recorded virtual event as the students received scholarships ranging from $2,000-$2,500. In addition to providing scholarships for youth who live in ZIP code 20024 or attend Richard Wright Public Charter Schools for Journalism and Media Arts, the task force mentors scholarship applicants, provides internships, and tutors Richard Wright students. Task force member Wilma Goldstein served as Mistress of Ceremonies.

Musician Benjamin C. Sands, Jr., one of the first recipients of a Southwest scholarship, provided entertainment and shared the story of how the Southwest community helped him buy his first saxophone, telling the students that “when someone helps you, you help others.”  

Vyllorya Evans, who has chaired the task force for the past seven years, opened the program by recognizing the River Park Cooperative Community Relations Committee for starting the grassroots initiative in 1974 by awarding $1600 to three students. To date, 230 students have received $464,000 in scholarships. 

The SWNA Education and Scholarship Task Force has been a partner of the Friends of Southwest DC for over 20 years, and is also its single largest grant recipient. Friends of Southwest DC President Peter Eicher presented scholarship awards to five students. “We are proud of the work they are doing and the success they have been having,” Eicher said.

Rick Bardach and Delmar Weathers, co-chairs of the Task Force Scholarship Committee, introduced an additional nine new scholarship recipients and 14 returning students. Viewers watched recordings of the students as they shared their accomplishments, college plans, and aspirations for the future.  

Former scholarship recipients Bianca Kersellius, Haili Blassingame, and Kenneth Tinseley, offered advice to help the students navigate their college experience. Kersellius is a Penn State graduate, an author, and small business owner. Blassingame, a Spelman College graduate, is a producer at WAMU, DC’s NPR station, and is working on a master’s degree in creative writing at American University. Tinsley graduated from Central State University and is the running back coach at the University of Maine.  

Dr. Marco Clark, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Richard Wright Public Charter Schools for Journalism and Media Arts, was the event’s keynote speaker. Aliyah Vines, a recent graduate of Richard Wright, choreographed and performed a modern dance to honor the senior class of 2021 and the challenges they have overcome graduating amid a global pandemic. 

Student Scholarship Award Winners 

The 2021 scholarship recipients are: Cedric Caschetta (Virginia University of Lynchburg), Mikayla Edwards (University of the District of Columbia), Nour Mahmoud(Virginia Commonwealth University), Jackson Muise (Boston University), Antoinette Porter (Trinity Washington University), Shaniah Robin (California State University), Jordan Watson (Virginia State University), Una Yarsky (University of Alabama), Ellen Guo (Virginia Tech) Dia’Mynn Brown (Bowie State University), Nicla De Biasi (Northeastern University), Gabriella Grimaldi (George Washington University), Steven Guo (George Washington University), Dehja Harris (Trinity Washington University), Eleanor Holt (Clark University), Sydney King (Xavier University), Grace Mitchell-Jenkins (Lackawanna College), Nicholas Moses (Colorado Technical University), Kendall Parks (Jackson State University), Dayonna Queen (University of Hartford), Aidan Smith (George Washington University), Khalil Warren (Lincoln University), and Aaliyah Wilkinson (Virginia State University).

To view the 2021 program, please visit the SWNA website: To make a tax-deductible donation, please make your check payable to Southwest Neighborhood Assembly and mail it to SWNA Scholarship Fund, PO Box 70131, Washington, DC 20024-0131

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