COLUMBIA — Vanessa (Brown) Haywood, a member of Hickman High School's class of 1979, says her mother impressed upon her the importance of an education when she was younger.
When she reached high school, she began to cut a path through the unkempt jungle of college applications while looking for a means of financial support.
Applications can be found on the Columbia African American Association's Web site.
Application packets must include the scholarship application, a written essay, an official academic transcript and two letters of recommendation. Send to Columbia African American Association, ATTN: CAAA Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1632, Columbia, MO 65205.
The deadline to apply is April 30.
But for Haywood, that financial support was well hidden — or altogether fictional, she said. This was one of the reasons she decided to join some of her high school classmates 30 years later to launch the Columbia African American Association Memorial Scholarship.
To make higher education more accessible, the newly founded Columbia African American Association is offering a $500 scholarship to one student from each of Columbia’s three high schools. The deadline to apply is April 30.
"All of us have been doing different things in our (respective) communities, but this is the first time we've brought it back home," Haywood said. Home, for four of the five founding members of the association, is the surrounding neighborhoods of Douglass High School. In fact, three of the five were in Douglass' last kindergarten class before integration.
Treasurer Keener Tippin II said applicants should have a strong academic background, a desire to continue their academic pursuit and consistent community involvement. Applicants should also be good leaders and agents for social change, he said.
Additionally, applicants should be African-American high school seniors and have at least a 2.7 GPA, according to the association's Web site.
"We are looking for the Talented Tenth (that) W.E.B. DuBois spoke of," Tippin said, referring to a concept proposed by DuBois in his collection of works titled "The Negro Problem." The Talented Tenth refers to the top 10 percent of African-Americans, who are educated and trained to help the remaining 90 percent reach the same level of achievement.
Haywood, now charged with maintaining the association's technological side, said she and her co-founders should be role models for African-American high school students.
Today’s students should know that “we've got people who've been there, we've got people who grew up where we did and got out — they got a college degree and they're making things happen,” Haywood said. “Everyone is a role model if they're going toward the positive."
Members of the group say they think they can have a dynamic impact through the scholarship fund.
Co-chairman Anthony VanBuren Sr. said through the scholarship, the association — whose motto is “Rebuilding Columbia … brick by brick” — hopes to develop responsible and accountable leaders in Columbia’s youth.
Future leaders are going to be “a mixture of all kinds of different people,” VanBuren said, and the association’s objective is to make sure those leaders are well prepared.
The idea to start a scholarship fund arose in 2007. Tippin said it began as a way to “pay homage to some of our classmates that have passed on.”
The scholarship is not only a tribute, but also a way to give back to the community in which members spent their formative years, VanBuren said.
Co-chairman Melvin Clayborne said President Barack Obama was his inspiration to help start the scholarship fund, instilling in him the need to inspire young people to pursue an education.
Clayborne said the association hopes to increase the amount of the scholarship next year. VanBuren said he would like to join with other Columbia fundraisers to work toward accomplishing this goal, as the majority of this year’s donors live outside of the state.
The scholarship awards will be handed out at a ceremony at 4 p.m. May 17 at Douglass High School, 310 N. Providence Road.