Magazine article Black Enterprise

Words from the Young, Gifted & Black: Winners of the B.E.-New York Life Insurance Scholarship Contest Write about the Importance of Education to African-Americans

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Words from the Young, Gifted & Black: Winners of the B.E.-New York Life Insurance Scholarship Contest Write about the Importance of Education to African-Americans

Article excerpt

IT IS EASY TO FOCUS ON THE many problems associated with young African-Americans. So easy, in fact, that the concerns of urban violence, drugs and teen pregnancy often obscure the efforts of the vast majority of black youth who are striving for a better life while making major contributions to their communities. Too often, young African-Americans striving for academic excellence are ignored by their elders and ostracized by their peers. The result: Education is devalued in the eyes of our youth, while athletics, and yes, crime are glorified as easy-money alternatives commanding higher esteem in popular culture--despite lip service about the importance of a good education. No plan to improve the economic health of this nation can be successful as long as this remains the case.

Last year, in an effort to recognize and reward academic excellence, BLACK ENTERPISE and the New York Life Insurance Co. sponsored the 1993 Outstanding African-American Student Scholarship Contest. The contest awarded $10,000 in scholarships toward the college education of deserving high school seniors.

Announced in the June 1993 issue of BE, the contest was open to AfricanAmerican high school seniors graduating in 1993 from schools in the United States. To be eligible, students had to have a 3.0 grade point average or better, demonstrate leadership abilities and participate in extracurricular and community service activities. Honors and awards and outside employment were also considered favorably by the judges. Finally, applicants were required to submit an essay of 500 words or less on "The Value of Education for the African-American Community."

The response to the announcement was impressive. More than 300 students applied for the scholarships. These applications, which included two letters of recommendation and official transcripts, were pored over by a screening panel, which came up with 12 finalists. These finalists were then evaluated by a judging committee, which came up with four truly outstanding young AfricanAmerican scholars.

"The judging was unbelievably difficult," says BE Editor-in-Chief Sheryl Hilliard Tucker, a member of the judging committee. "All twelve of the finalists were inspiring examples of the type of young African-American who deserves more attention and support for his or her efforts.

With that sentiment in mind, BE presents excerpts of the essays of the four scholarship winners, who are now freshmen at prestigious institutions of higher learning. The editors of BE suggest you read these excerpts closely. Chances are, this won,t be the last time you hear great things from these authors.


Originally from Jamaica, I'Kyori Swaby was an honors student at Oyster Bay High School in Oyster Bay, N.Y., where he became co-founder of the science club. Particularly gifted in science, he assisted experiments at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and entertained inner-city kids with his performance in the "Chemical Magic Show. " Envisioning a career in science, the independent-minded I'Kyori is an 18-year-old freshman at Columbia University in New York.

Stop thief! A people's hopes, optimistic vision and their possibilities are being stolen! What better way to shackle a people than to steal their opportunities and shackle their thoughts? Indeed, today, in such a condition is the African-American community-at-large. The legacy of slavery and racism grips America in its hold of ignorance. Due to racism and its results, the story of African-American education has either been one of cruel denial or one of inferior and valueless learning. During slavery, attempts at literacy were met by the lacerating whip. Next, a segregation de jure of unequal schools was superseded by a segregation de facto of unequal learning. The African-American community possesses a culture oppositional to the white cultural norm that is acting as an anti-intellectual element in African-American performance. …

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