Former Ambassador Andrew Young, students and alumni, state legislators and civil rights leaders gathered on the steps of the Woodruff Library at Atlanta University Center Friday to celebrate the creation of a new scholarship program for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The new $5,000 Andrew Young HBCU Scholarships are designed to help students enrolled in HBCUs continue their educations.
Surrounded by students, Young described having to work many jobs to put himself through college when he was a young man – but ultimately managing to graduate.
“Now that won’t get you through the first two weeks,” he said, referring to the greatly increased cost of higher education today. Young said it is challenging for young people – among them his nine grandchildren – to afford college.
Education publisher McGraw Hill provided seed money for the scholarship fund.
“When we have this kind of support from a major corporation …. we know it’s a good investment. It’s a good investment for them. And it’s certainly a good investment for us.”
Atlanta’s HBCUs have contributed to making Atlanta a nationally renowned civil rights center with a strong business climate, Young said.
“It’s been this university complex that has created the brains that have drawn businesses here … that not only makes Atlanta great city, but I think it keeps even Georgia now a great nation,” Young said. “That’s why business is growing, that’s why we’ve got the world’s busiest airport.
State Reps. Dave Belton, R-Buckhead, and Mack Jackson, D-Sandersville, who helped spearhead the initiative for the scholarships, were also present.
The two lawmakers cosponsored a resolution encouraging Georgia public schools to teach about the civil rights movement and especially Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who attended Morehouse College. The resolution won unanimous approval from the Georgia House of Representatives earlier this year.
“I think everyone needs to hear … the words of Dr. King about peaceful resistance and non-violence is the best way to get there. I think that that resonates,” Belton said.
The first group of scholarships will go to 10 students. Scholarship recipients will also complete a civil rights curriculum designed by the organization Good of All, a group that promotes universal human rights.
The scholarships are designed to advance King’s, Young’s and other civil right leaders’ message of non-violent social change, 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 raise up a new generation that can go on offense for the good side – not defense against the bad,” said Daniels. “That’s why these young people are here.”
Daniels noted that students who leave college often do so between the first and second year due to lack of relatively modest sums, around $5,000, the scholarship amount. The new scholarships are designed to help “plug the gap.”
He and the other organizers plan for the scholarship program to grow each year.
“Inoculating hearts and minds against the poisonous ideologies of racism and violence that we saw in Buffalo …. that’s why we’re doing this scholarship program,” Daniels said. “America needs these young people.”
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.