UNCF and Tougaloo College at the forefront of creating the next generation of professionals

The Mississippi Link Newswire

 Partying with a Purpose will be the motivational force Friday, October 26th at 7:00 p.m. in the Trustmark Ballroom for those attending the 2012 UNCF Masked Ball.  The Masked Ball is a major fundraiser for the UNCF Scholarship Campaign at Tougaloo College.

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Tougaloo College have been partners since 1944 tirelessly devoting their energies to increasing the number of minority college graduates. “With the impact of the economic turmoil on the income of families and the shrinking of federal aid, it’s good to have the support of such organizations as UNCF,” commented Patricia Johnson, UNCF Coordinator at Tougaloo College.

UNCF provides more than 1,200 scholarships, fellowships and internship opportunities to help students meet their financial need.  Brandon Erby, a 2012 graduate of Tougaloo College and 2010 UNCF-Mellon Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipient can attest to these opportunities.

      “Every single day, Americans are engulfed with appealing slogans that catch their ears. After turning on the television or radio for merely five minutes, it is inevitable to hear “I’m Lovin’ It!” or “What’s in your Wallet?” at any given time. However, there is one slogan that is often not aired, but is vital to the maturation of countless African Americans nationwide; a slogan that seemed to simultaneously challenge and inspire me throughout my four years of undergraduate study.

             When I entered Tougaloo College in the fall of 2008, I was indecisive on a major and ambivalent about my future career choice. Urged by my first year advisor to consider English as a major, I was enrolled into a course titled “Effective Communication,” which focused on the mastery of expository and critical writing through problem-centered and interdisciplinary techniques. As the course progressed, my curiosity and attraction for the written text increased, and I was able to gain a deeper understanding of what it meant to be a human being. Through the guidance of my English professors, I was able to interrogate and frame issues, discover genuine truths, and not accept what is simply given as fact. It was at this time that I realized what my major and career choice would be; for at this moment, I discovered that “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”

             Continuing to observe my English professors and their passion for teaching and research, I, too, developed an appreciation for academia. I was fascinated by their ability to challenge my views while encouraging me to transcend superficiality, and I soon realized my desire to effect similar change among future students.

 But, there was a problem. In spite of my newly found “calling,” I had doubts. How could I, as a young, black male, survive in academia? My peers that were interested in medicine had several program opportunities to assist and strengthen their applications for medical school, while my peers interested in law also had the same type of aid for their journey to law school. What type of support was available for a person like me?

 Fortunately, the UNCF had an answer to my question.

In the spring of 2010, I was awarded the UNCF-Mellon Undergraduate Research Fellowship. The purpose of the UNCF-Mellon program is to increase the number of qualified minority faculty within the Academy, and with this opportunity, I knew that my mind and my potential as a scholar of English, would not be wasted. Even as a black male, the UNCF-Mellon program recognized that my presence, along with other racially and ethnically diverse individuals, would provide the Academy with scholarship and teaching styles that would represent diverse world views, an appreciation for issues of social justice and a commitment for the development of scholars of color.

 With this fellowship, I was given a voice that could not be silenced. My mind was of value, and the UNCF understood that. They were conscious enough to know that there should be incentives for working hard, so I was provided with a very generous stipend each semester and summer I was in the program, as long as I stayed committed to my research and to obtaining the PhD degree. I was also given funds for travel and GRE preparation, as doors of opportunity were always made available for me to work on my personal research interests. Through the UNCF-Mellon program, I have studied at institutions in cities such as Atlanta, GA, New York, NY, and Providence, RI, and for that I am extremely grateful.

 There is no doubt that the support base that I received from the UNCF has helped mold me into the young man that I am today. After graduating as the Class Salutatorian in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, I am now working on my Master’s degree in English at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. In addition to my graduate work, I am also teaching Freshman English at the University each semester.

 Before I was a student at Tougaloo College, I did not know what my future would hold. I lived in a city with a high crime rate and was being raised by a single mother. I did well in school, but there was something still missing. I needed reassurance. Tougaloo College and the UNCF provided that for me.

 As a black male from a small HBCU in Mississippi, I have been equipped with the necessary knowledge to excel in my field. I thank the UNCF and Tougaloo College for supplying the support – financially, academically and mentally – which was essential to my growth as a scholar and as a man. There are so many individuals like me, individuals not looking for a handout, but just a hand, to guide them in the right direction. The UNCF knows this, and that is why this foundation is needed. I am a witness.”

The 2012 UNCF campaign, supporting Tougaloo and Rust Colleges, is currently underway.  Please support the work that this organization has done – and continues to do – in providing financial options for academically talented young people who are working towards a college degree.  For more information on this campaign, please call 601-977-7871.

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