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Joint Scholarship Celebration awards $81,000 to students in Twin Cities

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BLOOMINGTON — “You have to put your name in it to win it,” Brandon Caffey of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity said to college scholarship recipients on Saturday.

He represented one of 16 organizations that awarded a total of $81,000 in educational assistance to over two dozen high school graduates and college students during a Joint Scholarship Celebration.

The event was coordinated by the Mentoring and Providing Sponsorships program and hosted at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bloomington. The MAPS program, founded by Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson and Tony Jones, sponsors the Joint Scholarship Celebration each year. 

NAACP Chapter President Linda Foster remarked to the audience that at the heart of the NAACP’s mission is to eradicate racism and discrimination.

Once that is done, she said “we can live in peace. We can exhale and we can be as human beings should be: in harmony.”

As they continue to fight that war on racism, Foster said they need to keep bringing in young people brave enough to apply for scholarships.

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Superintendents of both public school districts in the Twin Cities were also present Saturday.

Kristen Weikle, head of McLean County Unit 5, gave her congratulations to all graduates in Bloomington-Normal, and noted she was particularly biased toward Unit 5 graduates. Weikle said she looked forward to them receiving their scholarships.

Barry Reilly, superintendent of Bloomington School District 87, said the scholarships were truly meaningful to the kids in our community, and he’s personally excited for them.

Reilly told recipients there are many who have invested in their futures, and they shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of those relationships.

“Take the good things that you see in people, learn from those and don't hesitate to reach out and learn from those folks,” he said. “Continue to do that. You’ve got great mentors around you.”

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Rhonda Johnson, of Normal, told The Pantagraph that her family established the Dr. Dominique Lawson Scholarship fund as a gift for her daughter, a psychologist in Maryland.

That was done, she said, because they wanted more representation of people of color in her profession, noting only 4% of the psychology field are African Americans. Johnson said they raised money to help encourage students to go into that field.

Michael Coleman, a graduate of Normal Community High School, received the Lawson scholarship.

Another recipient present was Tahigee Floyd, 2022 graduate of Normal Community West High School. He told The Pantagraph that he felt shocked and blessed by the awards.

“I just thank God that I was able to win,” he said, adding that he hopes to help other youth down the road and pass the blessings on.

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Members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity award scholarships on Saturday to, from right, Tahigee Floyd, Lanah Collins and Michael Coleman.

Floyd said he learned about the scholarship awards a few years ago and had seen others win. And, he said it’s crazy that he can win one too.

Floyd plans to study marketing at North Park University in Chicago.

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Receiving the Mentoring And Providing Scholarships Program fund was Jasmyn Jordan, a 2021 NCWHS graduate who’s double-majoring in criminology and political science in the pre-law track at the University of Iowa.

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Jasmyn Jordan, a Normal West graduate who’s double-majoring in criminology and political science at the University of Iowa, received a scholarship from the Mentoring And Providing Scholarships Program during the Joint Scholarship Celebration on Saturday at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bloomington.

Jordan spoke at the event about her initial takeaways from her freshman year. She quoted civil rights activist Audre Lorde: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.”

Drawing parallels between how our bodies need an array of food groups to be healthy and strong, she said, it’s imperative we surround ourselves with people who demonstrate a variety of mindsets, personalities and abilities.

Without that, Jordan said we’ll remain emotionally, spiritually and physically sad.

“Every single human is unique and serves a purpose that is unique, and if all of humankind were identical, our race could not survive,” she continued, noting that a homogeneous humankind is unable to solve the world’s problems.

She said diversity and unity allow us to flourish, though groups of certain characteristics will gravitate toward each other. Jordan said they need to learn to be receptive toward the differences of others around them.

“Often humans choose to do what is wrong, because doing right is much harder,” she said. “Some people do not like the differences of others that will directly affect them and challenge their status and power.

“Therefore, it's arduous for humans to find worth in each other's diversity.”

Awarding organizations included:

• Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Omicron Delta Omega Chapter

• Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Nu Psi Lambda Chapter

• Bergner’s (Laurie and Ray) Scholarship Fund

• “B”radley ”E”ncourages — B.E. Kindness Awards

• Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Alumnae Chapter

• Dr. Dominique Lawson’s Scholarship Fund

• Dr. Cedrick Williams’ Legacy Scholarship Fund

• Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alumni Chapter

• Links, Central Illinois Chapter

• Mentoring And Providing Scholarships Program

• NAACP Bloomington-Normal Branch

• Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Alumnae Chapter

• 100 Black Men of Central Illinois

• Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Kappa Mu Sigma Alumni Chapter

• Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Kappa Epsilon Sigma Chapter

• Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Beta Iota Zeta Chapter

Students awarded scholarships included:

  • Karis Avant
  • Cyndee Baylis
  • Dylan Banks
  • Symone Baptiste
  • Alannah Blanks
  • Marcus Brooks
  • Jade Buchanan
  • Jade Carthans
  • Michael Coleman
  • Lanah Collins
  • Danasia Conely
  • Perry Crofton
  • Kendall Cross
  • Laurie Diamonika
  • Naomi Elliott
  • Reland Franklin
  • Amya Gaston
  • Jordynn Griffin
  • Sean Halperin
  • Alexandria Hickman
  • Marissa Hilt
  • Aleeya Husseann
  • Mekhi Jones
  • Rashaad Jones
  • Jasmyn Jordan
  • Joyce Kabesa-Mavinga
  • Samaria Knox
  • James Love
  • Andrew Myles
  • Herve Nzita
  • Jasmine O’Connor
  • Caleb Pembele
  • Crofton Perry
  • Denaiya Pendleton
  • Floyd Tahigee
  • Jordan Tatum
  • Silas Terrell
  • Jaeda Thomas
  • Aniya Thompson
  • Makayla Tupper
  • Paige Walker
  • Alexander Williams
  • Zion Williams

You got plans?

James Harden, executive director of engagement and social learning with the Champaign Unit 4 School District, was the keynote speaker during Saturday's event.

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James Harden, executive director of engagement and social learning with the Champaign Unit 4 School District, was the keynote speaker during the Joint Scholarship Celebration on Saturday at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bloomington.

The message he drove home to the audience, especially graduates, was to continually ask themselves: “What (are) you doing? Where are you at? You got plans?”

He then instructed the audience to put those plans on paper.

“If it ain’t written, it ain’t real.”

Next, Harden said to affirm those plans with phrases of  “I am...”

“I am blessed. I am gifted. I am God's child. I am highly favored. I am amazing. I am unstoppable,” Harden said.

“I am, I am, I am.”

Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison

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Breaking News Reporter

Brendan Denison is our breaking news reporter. Denison was a digital content producer for WCIA-TV in Champaign and a reporter for The Commercial-News in Danville. He can be reached at (309) 820-3238 and bdenison@pantagraph.com.

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