CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Several years ago, a group of Austin Peay State University graduates endowed the African American Alumni Scholarship fund to provide African-American students with the opportunity to earn a college education. After a successful initial investment, financial support for the scholarship slowly dried up. In the last few years, it has sat dormant, unable to provide assistance for deserving students.
But that’s about to change. Earlier this year, the APSU Advancement Office suggested that the Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center take over the scholarship, and the two departments have now embarked on an aggressive new fundraising campaign to make that fund viable again.
“The center’s advisory committee is actually starting the criteria development process for this scholarship,” Henderson Hill III, director of the cultural center, said. “Right now, we’re in the fundraising process. And my hope is that the mentality will start to be as we graduate students and they become alumni that they will invest back into this program.”
In July, the center sent out pledge cards to hundreds of African-American alumni and supporters of the center. But Hill specified that the scholarship fund provides a worthy opportunity for anyone looking to support APSU.
“We want friends of the center, friends of the institution, former alumni, not just African-Americans, but those who just understand the importance of this type of work to help give back,” he said. “We’ve had some pretty positive responses.”
This new fundraising campaign also seeks to recognize the hard work of African-American students graduating from the University. Donors are encouraged to support the center’s African American Graduate Recognition Ceremony, which honors these students in the fall and spring the day before they graduate.
“The ceremony is for all African-American students who wish to participate, the same way military students, nursing students and business students have their own recognition ceremonies,” Hill said. “Our graduates, some of them are first generation and for them to have their parents and even grandparents there is a really, really big deal. Some are nontraditional, and for their children to see them go through this process is very heartwarming.”
The ceremony is free for the students, and they receive complimentary Kente stoles to wear at graduation. Last spring, about 50 students participated in the event. As more students graduate, this becomes a financial struggle for the center to host.
“We’re able to do it more effectively if we have more support,” Hill said. “The students don’t have to pay for anything. We do the whole program, we pay for the people on the program, and we pay for the reception for them and their family. We have a photographer. We pay for all that. It helps when we can offset the cost with some type of financial support.”
“When alumni and friends donate to the African American Scholarship and the Recognition Ceremony it shows the value they place on the educational experience at Austin Peay,” Kimberly Scott, APSU director of annual giving, said. “Your support is an investment that will help students achieve their hopes and dreams now and in the future. I hope that everyone will take the opportunity today to change a student’s life by making a donation.”
For more information on the ceremony, the scholarship fund, or to make a donation, contact the WNDAACC at www.apsu.edu/aacc.