By Charlotte Smith
RIEGELWOOD, NC — The summer thunderstorm did not stop the most prominent Men and Women United for Youth & Families, CDC Annual Awards & Recognition event held at Berline P. Graham Multipurpose Building behind the Riegelwood Elementry School this past Saturday. Recent graduates from the tri-county region are eagerly preparing for their journey into college life this fall. Randolph Keaton, Executive Director for Men & Women United for Youth & Families, explained the local non-profit organization is taking the initiative to give a group of students a headstart on their higher education aspirations for the 17th year in a row.
Mr. Keaton noted, “Since 2006, our work promotes economic and personal development in our rural communities of Bladen, Brunswick, and Columbus counties.” Acknowledging the crucial role of supporters, Mr. Keaton extended a heartfelt appreciation to individuals like Mr. Dennis Troy, esteemed Bladen Community College Trustee, and the remarkable group of over 20 funding contributors. Their unwavering commitment and generosity have made events like this possible for the non-profit, fostering a sense of community and enabling the organization to continue its valuable endeavors.
Mrs. Althea D. Weaver, the non-profit’s Board Secretary and emcee of the evening was excited to host the most significant awards ceremony in the organization’s history. The event saw 17 remarkable high school graduates hailing from the region being bestowed with generous scholarships. The scholarships ranged from $500 to $1000 each.
This financial assistance comes to these bright minds, lightening the burden of college expenses and clearing the path for their academic pursuits. D’ante Grovner, one of the fortunate recipients and speakers of the evening, is bound for NC State to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. For him, this scholarship isn’t just a financial lifeline; it represents the realization of a dream for himself and any other aspiring student who receives such a precious opportunity.
Grateful and humbled by the support, Grovner expressed his sentiments, saying, “Receiving this scholarship opens the doors to a college education. It’s a blessing to have such a closely-knit community where one can seek out opportunities and find the support needed to pursue higher education.” This remarkable event marks the organization’s most significant recognition of students and the highest number of scholarships awarded to date.
Mrs. Weaver reported the organization received 20 scholarship applications, and due to fundraising and memorials, the non-profit can distribute 17 scholarships this year.
The 2023 Scholarship Recipients are as follows.
East Bladen High School Graduates:
Chole Hines-Iris received the Linda Daniel Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend NCCU.
Taran McNeil received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend NCA&T.
Eriana Ripley – received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend UNCC.
East Columbus Graduates:
Sara Akins received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend UNCW.
Christian Graham received the Justin McLaurin Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend UNCG.
Ronald Hester received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend UNCG.
Morgan Hudson received the Tamitha Freeman Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend WSSU.
Andy Perez received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend ECU.
Ahdaeja Steele received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend WSSU.
Columbus Career and College Academy Graduate:
D’Ante Grovner received the Harold and Edith Boyd Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend NC State.
Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy Graduate:
Robert Cottingham, Jr. received the Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend NC State.
South Columbus Academy Graduate:
Weldon Gore received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend NC State.
Southeastern Community College Graduate:
Celena Waddell received the Willie & Mildred Keaton Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend UNCP.
West Bladen High School Graduate:
Shanyla Hunter received the Willie & Mildred Keaton Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend NCCU.
Whiteville High School Graduate:
Carly Sanderson received a Tri-County Scholarship and plans to attend UNC.
GLOW Academy Graduate:
Kieria Burney received the Naomi Miller Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend CFCC.
Wilmington Early College Graduate:
Isis Peoples received the Naomi Miller Memorial Scholarship and plans to attend NCA&T.
Anita R. Brown-Graham graced the evening as the distinguished guest speaker, bringing her invaluable insights and wisdom to the gathering. Renowned as the founder and director of the esteemed ncIMPACT Initiative at the prestigious UNC School of Government, she has been at the forefront of driving positive change in the community. Her accomplishments were further recognized in 2020 when she was bestowed with the esteemed title of Gladys Hall Coates Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at the School, a testament to her exceptional contributions to the field.
In her empowering address, Brown-Graham passionately encouraged the graduates to dare to dream big and to embrace the journey of lifelong learning. She emphasized the boundless possibilities that await them when they remain committed to the pursuit of knowledge and continuous education. Her words seemed to resonate deeply with the audience, igniting a spark of inspiration in the hearts of the graduates, who now embark on a new chapter of their lives.
In a time when the rising costs of education can be daunting, the ‘Men and Women United for Youth and Families’ has emerged as a guiding light, empowering the youth and fostering a spirit of unity in the pursuit of knowledge. Their unwavering commitment to shaping the future of these promising graduates sets a shining example for the community, instilling hope and encouragement for generations to come.
Men and Women United for Youth & Families, CDC is a non-profit organization that continues to empower dreams and build futures through generous support. Donations may be made using the QR code below, visiting menandwomenunited.org/donate/, or mailing a check to 25805 Andrew Jackson Hwy E, Delco, NC 28436.