Amid ongoing gun violence and unrest in the community, there are grassroots efforts that continue to provide encouragement and opportunities for a better life, hope to black boys and girls. Annually, school alumni groups, civic and social organizations as well as churches, businesses, sororities and fraternities give scholarships to college-bound students.
A stellar example is the Booker T. Washington High School (BTW) Foundation. Incorporated in 2003 by the BTW Class of 1957, “The Foundation,” with non-profit 501 (c) (3) status is dedicated exclusively to providing financial support to BTW, a historic Miami high school built in 1926.
The Foundation’s primary mission is to encourage BTW graduates to aspire toward higher academic achievement. This is accomplished by making annual scholarship awards to qualified and deserving, but financially disadvantaged BTW graduates. The Foundation also makes annual financial awards to the BTW Teacher of the Year and the BTW administrative staff for significant academic projects only.
According to The Foundation’s President and CEO, John Glover, a member of the class of 1957: “ We now have 37 BTW graduates who have graduated from college or who are currently matriculating. In 2016 we will fund a total of 21 scholarships to BTW graduates: four @ $3,000 each, three at @1,500 each, and 14 continuous scholarships at $1,000 each. We will also give at least $6,000 to the Saturday Academy program at the school. This program funds remedial, advanced placement and college testing prep Saturday classes.”
In addition to Glover, 1957 class members who are officers include Clement Minnis, vice president; Carrie B. Mickey, secretary; Pernella C. Burke, assistant secretary; Walter Perkins, Sr., treasurer; Delores P. Mathis, assistant treasurer; Joyce Moffett, Chaplain; and David Robinson, II, general counsel and editor of the foundation’s annual report.
The group raises funds and receives donations in the following categories: Named Scholarships, Donors To Named Scholarships, Lifetime Memberships, President’s Club, Corporate Donors, Memberships, Memorials, Donors to Memorials, and Donors to General Fund. They are known to actively solicit funds from school mates, family, friends, businesses, and corporations.
The Foundation’s largest gift, $120,000 is from the estate of Herbert “Herb” Carter (1939-2015), a Miami native and 1956 BTW graduate. For nearly three decades Carter excelled as a corporate executive at IBM and the Siemens Corporation. Later his love and commitment to education was manifested in his position as executive vice president of the Siemens Foundation.
Following his retirement from Siemens, Carter continued his involvement in academic enrichment and student development through participation on the Board of the Texas Mathworks Program at Texas State University. He established a scholarship for black students to attend the Mathworks Honors Summer Math Camp at Texas State University.
Before his death Carter fulfilled his plan to establish an endowed scholarship fund, to finance college education for future high school graduates at BTW, his alma mater in Overtown.
Foundation President Glover commented, “Herb Carter was a dear and special friend who was passionate about the future of BTW and its students, especially those interested in math and science. He also wanted to set a standard for others to follow.”
Indeed, coming from humble beginnings Carter helped dispel two widely held misconceptions: (1) that black philanthropy does not exist and (2) one has to be a millionaire to give. He demonstrated a high level of achievement and the importance of giving back to the next generation. Several BTW High School Foundation recipients who received scholarships have started on the same path.
Natalie Sanon, a 2006 BTW honor graduate earned a bachelors in nursing at the University of Florida. A registered nurse, she is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing at the University of Miami.
“Coming from a background where my parents made below minimum wage and living from paycheck to paycheck, the Foundation’s scholarship allowed me to have one less stressor in my life and (to) focus on my academics. I have contributed to the BTW scholarship foundation and I plan on continuing to do so in the future,” she said.
Robensky Theodore, a 2008 BTW graduate and Haitian American, attended Florida A&M University, where he was active in both service and social-based organizations. He graduated from the Sybil C. Mobley School of Business and Industry, magna cum laude, completing his college career with a bachelor’s of science degree in accounting with a minor in economics. He was hired by JP Morgan Chase, based in New York. Since 2014 he has served as an audit analyst covering currencies and emerging markets.
Reflecting on his BTW Foundation scholarship Robensky said, “ I was raised by immigrant parents with no formal education. Without the BTW Class of 1957 Foundation, all of this would not have been possible. Because of the Foundation’s support I was able to maintain great academic standing while attending FAMU. I feel that it is my duty to support BTW and I pledge to provide other BTW Scholars with the same opportunity that I received due to the support of those before me.” In 2013 he became a Foundation member and donor.
Nationally, self-help, giving and volunteerism for social change as integral components of black culture are documented in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Foundation Center. The Center, the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide, published the African-American Philanthropy: A Bibliography and Resource List. It features the increased scholarly focus on black philanthropy and a growing number of blacks making large gifts, creating foundations, and endowments to channel their philanthropy.
Locally, the South Florida Network of Blacks in Philanthropy (SFNBP) promotes and encourages multicultural philanthropy.
In order to take advantage of philanthropic opportunities youth must be alive and ready, not physically or emotionally wiped out by gun violence. Scholarships such as those available as a result of Herbert Carter’s generosity provide hope and promise to students reaching for a better life and an improved community.
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.