Photo caption: Scholarship students (first row, left to right): Kiana Livingston, Bianca Kersellius, Haili Blassingame, Sequoia Lucas, and Najma Pettiford. (Second row, left to right): Tiffany Livingston, Roman Hamilton, Gary T. Hill, Tsahai Pettiford, and Attalah Shabazz. Not pictured: Asha Marshall and Marlon Mitchell.



Photo caption: Sequoia Lucas with some of her art.


Photo caption: Tsahai Pettiford explains her architecture projects.

Photos courtesy of Perry Klein.

On August 16, the SWNA Education and Scholarship Task Force (formerly Scholarship Committee) celebrated its 41st year of awarding scholarships to students living in Southwest DC. The number of scholarships doubled from last year, it went from six to 12; three were repeat applicants and nine were new applicants. The awards ceremony was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where more than 50 guests gathered to meet this year’s recipients. To date, the SWNA Education Task Force has awarded scholarships to more than 280 college students living in the Southwest community since 1974.

The following students were awarded scholarships this year:

Haili Blassingame will be studying international studies at Spelman College this fall. Haili is a recent graduate of School Without Walls High School. She enjoys blogging, reading, and writing. She has also interned with NPR’s Weekend Edition. After graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in journalism and work as an executive producer for 20th Century Fox news.

Roman Hamilton will be studying computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh this fall. He is a graduate of Woodrow Wilson Senior High School. Roman is a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church and the Boy Scouts of America. He enjoys programming and playing the guitar. He plans on getting a job in the tech industry after graduation.

Gary T. Hill is a junior at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania majoring in early childhood education. He graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School in 2013. He served as president of his sophomore class and is currently a member of the Kappa Delta Pi honor society. Gary also worked as a guest service representative at Nationals Park. Upon graduation he plans to return to DC and teach.

Bianca Kersellius is a senior at Pennsylvania State University studying communications. Bianca graduated from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in 2012. She was the president of the Multi-Cultural Recruitment Team and is currently a member of the Lion Ambassadors Association at Penn State. She enjoys writing, blogging, and event planning. After graduation next spring, she plans to move back to DC with the hopes of landing a job or internship at an event planning company and volunteer throughout the community by staying involved in community service.

Kiana Livingston will be studying creative writing at SUNY Purchase College this fall. She is a 2015 graduate of School Without Walls High School. Kiana enjoys writing, reading, singing, and acting. She currently works for a nonprofit organization working with the youth in Washington, DC and has launched her own social media campaign promoting health. After graduation, Kiana plans to obtain her master’s degree at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts Writing for Screen and Television along with publishing her own manuscripts.

Tiffany Livingston will be studying strategic communications at Hampton University this fall. She graduated from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School this past spring. Tiffany is currently a member of the National Honor Society, the French Honor Society, along with the Math Honor Society. She is also a member of the Young Leaders Club. After college, she would like to pursue a master’s degree and eventually work at a PR firm.

Sequoia Lucas will be studying animation at Delaware College of Art & Design this fall. Sequoia graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts this past spring. She enjoys reading, drawing, painting, and playing video games. After graduating from her two-year program at Delaware College of Art & Design, she plans to transfer to another art institute to complete her four years of secondary education while seeking out internships and commissions to jump-start her career.

Asha Marshall is majoring in criminal justice at Radford University and hopes to become a funeral home owner. She is a 2014 graduate of KIPP DC: College Preparatory-KIPP Public Charter Schools where she was recognized as a strong math student willing to help others. She is currently a member of the National Scholar Collegiate Society and she enjoys writing and science. After graduation, Asha plans to obtain her mortuary license.

Marlon Mitchell is a senior studying computer technology at Jackson State University. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in 2012 where he served as both captain and player of the Woodrow Wilson SHS baseball league. He also played for the Tenleytown Woodrow League. Marlon enjoys writing poetry, reading, and listening to music. Marlon plans to follow his dream of playing baseball and obtaining a career in the IT field.

Tsahai Pettiford is a senior studying architecture at Philadelphia University. She graduated from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in 2012. She is currently a member of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students along with mentoring at school. Tsahai enjoys dance and working with children. She plans to work at an architecture firm after graduation.

Najma Pettiford will be studying jazz voice at North Carolina Central University this fall. She is a recent graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts this past spring. Najma has served as an usher and is a member of the praise and worship team at Triumphant Baptist Church. Najma has performed with the Mellow Tones on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center and at Arena Stage. She plans to become a produce and record her own music after graduating from college.

Attalah Shabazz is studying African American studies and political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a graduate of Anacostia Senior High School. Attalah is a member of the Life Church in Richmond, Virginia, and a community outreach organization called ASPIRE. After college she plans to teach history, become chair of a history department, and continue to be an activist for African American, LGBT, and women’s rights.

The scholarships are funded through community support. Friends of Southwest DC, a long-time community partner for this effort, funded scholarships for Asha Marshall and Tiffany Livingston. Community support for this year was overwhelming and included a generous gift from the Jazz Night in Southwest audience. Individual contributions were up considerably (four of $1,000 or more), and two memorial contributions were made by from Friends of David Plummer, who passed August 2015.

By: Vyllorya Evans

Co-Chair, SWNA Education Task Force


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