Former Ambassador Andrew Young, students and alumni, state lawmakers and civil rights leaders gathered on the steps of Atlanta University Center’s Woodruff Library on Friday to celebrate the creation of a new program scholarships for students of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The new $5,000 Andrew Young HBCU Scholarships are designed to help students enrolled in HBCUs further their education.
Surrounded by students, Young described having to work many jobs to get to college as a young man – but eventually graduating.
“Now that won’t get you through the first two weeks,” he said, referring to the vastly increased cost of higher education today. Young said it was hard for young people — including his nine grandchildren — to afford college.
Education publisher McGraw Hill provided seed money for the scholarship fund.
“When we have that kind of support from a big company…we know it’s a good investment. It’s a good investment for them. And it’s definitely a good investment for us.
Atlanta HBCUs have helped make Atlanta a nationally recognized civil rights center with a strong business climate, Young said.
“It’s this college complex that created the brains that brought the companies here…that not only make Atlanta a great city, but I think even Georgia is a great nation now,” Young said. “That’s why business is growing, that’s why we have the busiest airport in the world.
Also in attendance were state representatives Dave Belton, R-Buckhead, and Mack Jackson, D-Sandersville, who helped spearhead the scholarship initiative.
The two lawmakers co-sponsored a resolution encouraging Georgia public schools to teach about the civil rights movement and in particular Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who attended Morehouse College. The resolution was unanimously approved by the Georgia House of Representatives earlier this year.
“I think everyone needs to hear… Dr. King’s words about peaceful resistance and non-violence are the best way to get there. I think that resonates,” Belton said.
The first group of scholarships will go to 10 students. Fellows will also complete a civil rights curriculum designed by the organization Good of All, a group that promotes universal human rights.
The fellowships are designed to advance the message of nonviolent social change of King, Young and other civil right leaders, said Matthew Daniels, founder of Good of All.
Daniels said a new generation of civil rights leaders is needed to fight hate and violence in American society.
“The only alternative we really have is to breed a new generation that can attack the good side – not defend against the bad,” Daniels said. “That’s why these young people are here.
Daniels noted that students who leave college often do so between first and second year due to lack of relatively small sums, around $5,000, the scholarship amount. The new scholarships are designed to help “bridge the gap”.
He and the other organizers anticipate that the scholarship program will grow each year.
“Inoculating hearts and minds against the poisonous ideologies of racism and violence we saw in Buffalo…. that’s why we’re offering this scholarship program,” Daniels said. “America needs these young people.”
This story is available through a partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.