By Wilma Goldstein
It’s scholarship time! This is when the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s (SWNA) Education and Scholarship Task Force (ESTF) and their partner, Friends of Southwest (FOS) award college scholarships to incoming freshman, sophomores, juniors, and senior classmates and now graduate students, all of whom either live or went to high school in DC’s ZIP code 20024. This task force started in 1974, when several residents at the River Park Cooperative raised funds to provide scholarships to help three young people in the surrounding neighborhood go to college. The following year the program became part of SWNA, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, and a few years later took its present name, the Education and Scholarship Task Force.
Since that first year, ESTF has been able to give scholarships to all our eligible applicants, never missing a year or an opportunity. From the $1650 in 1974 to the tens of thousands of dollars now raised annually, the SWNA ESTF has raised over $588,000 (not counting this year), and thanks to our donors, given out 599 scholarships to 261 Southwest residents and students studying at Richard Wright, a partnership which represents the first new high school in 50 years. While the good-natured debate continues about which year was number one, SWNA ESTF will continue to move forward by celebrating and providing financial support in the 20024 ZIP code. This year is about those accomplishments and next year we will also announce our current accomplishments and celebrate.
We invited our 261 former scholars, our 2023 awardees and their families, and our donors to attend this year’s awards ceremony with a celebration to follow. The event will take place on Sunday, August 6, 2023 at 4:30 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 222 M Street SW.
Community members are welcome to attend and asked to RSVP with the total number of family members and friends in your party at www.swnascholarship.org.
We hope many will come and meet our wonderful scholars to see how our donor’s contributions have impacted the students over the years. The recent series “Where Are They Now?” has showcased the amazing accomplishments of some of the former scholars. We can’t help but think donors will feel their dollars were well invested in the students’ futures.
Dr. Shantella Y. Sherman, (1992-93-94) one of the former scholars, will be our guest speaker at the awards ceremony. Dr. Sherman presently divides her time between the U.S. and Europe, where she writes and lectures on several of her fields of study, including Women and Gender, African-American studies, Black British culture, the American Eugenics movement, and pop culture. She was featured in the March 2023 edition of The Southwester and recommended by our good friend, Helen Compton-Harris, who serves as Outreach Director at Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts. Compton-Harris noted in her recommendation: “I wonder if she ever contemplated that her college ventures, partly supported by ESTF, would have her teaching and spreading knowledge around the world.”
Task Force co-chairs Vyllorya Evans and Eric Smith, have been hard at work to bring you this year’s awards program and celebration, as have Rick Bardach and Delmar Weathers, co-chairs of the Scholarship Committee, whose ongoing activities determine our deserving applicants each year. Peter Eicher and Friends of Southwest, our partners in the Task Force, select from among the undergraduates, and provide the unique FOS award that will once again honor a scholar who is going on to graduate school through an award created by FOS’ founder, the late Dr. Coralie Farlee. There will also be an exciting announcement about additional scholarships for graduate students.
SWNA’s Youth Activities Task Force’s (YATF) Thelma D. Jones will serve as chair of the awards ceremony, and has invited two former ESTF scholars, Arnice Mack (1991-92-93) and Lisa Matthews (1986-87] to join her as co-chairs for the celebration.
Arnice Mack is a life-long resident of Southwest, where she continues to live and is a homeowner. She went to elementary school at Bowen (now Amidon-Bowen) then on to Jefferson Middle School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Sciences followed by a Masters in Biochemistry at DC’s Howard University. Today, Mack is a practicing forensic toxicologist and since 2002 has worked for the Federal Government Pre-Trial Agency representing DC as a toxicologist and chemist. She also works as a clinical laboratory scientist at Washington Hospital Center. As a member of several professional organizations, she has addressed and trained on a variety of matters ranging from health issue investigations to criminal behavior and has received many awards and honors for her work and her scholarship.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Mack has volunteered at Southwest Family Day for several years, served food to the “Cease Fire and Don’t Smoke Brothers and Sisters,” participated in the Breast Cancer Walk for her best friend, volunteered for Music in the Courtyard at St. James Mutual Homes, works weekly with special needs adults at the Chateaux Remix Hand Dancing Club, is a Board member and Treasurer at her condominium and a bone marrow donor for an acute Myeloid Leukemia survivor. She served as Miss Southwest in 1988.
Speaking about her role as a co-chair of the 2023 ESTF Scholarship Awards, Mack said, “I thought it would be a good time to show my appreciation to SWNA for the support they gave me with my education.”
The event’s second co-chair, Lisa Matthews, grew up in Southwest DC. She attended Van Ness Elementary School in Southeast DC, after which she went to Jefferson Middle School in Southwest. Matthews worked at the Fortune 500 company General Electric Company (GE) while she was in high school and on college summer breaks, then was invited by management to join GE’s Information Management Leadership Program at their GE Motors office in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The program offered career experience and an opportunity to learn about GE’s management structure, budgeting and finance, manufacturing, call center operations and how these business components impact information technology. After leaving GE, Matthews then went on to work at several more of America’s highest ranked companies, where she led information technology (IT) teams to help her clients analyze, streamline, integrate and build information technology solutions addressing their challenging business problems. While working for these companies she traveled to most U.S. states and abroad offering IT solutions.
She has also been a community activist, working with Willie Borden at the Boys and Girls Club, serving as President of the Future Business Leaders of American (FBLA) and with SWNA’s YATF. When asked about chairing the awards ceremony, Matthews shared her excitement and her “itch” to give back.
The SWNA ESTF 50 Years of Giving Celebration will be followed by a reception, with dessert will be provided by 2021 ESTF Scholar Grace Jenkins, who went to culinary school to become a baker and now has her own company, AmazingGraceCupcakery.
We are heading for another record-breaking number of scholars this year and we will use your contributions to enlarge our scholarship amounts. In spite of the difficult years we have had, many colleges and universities have raised their tuition, some rather significantly. So, if you have given, thank you; if you have not, please do so now. And, if you can, give again.
Donations can be made in two ways:
- Donate Online at SWNA.org
- Send a check payable to SWNA, P.O. Box 70131, Washington D.C. 20024 and please note in the space on the bottom left of your check “Scholarship Fund.”