Qadeera Braziel wants to live Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of creating a better life for herself through education. But paying for college is a challenge.
“I’m basically broke,” said Braziel, a Calhoun Community College freshman.
Braziel was one of 29 local high school and college students who received a total of $28,000 in scholarships Monday morning at the Decatur-Morgan County Minority Association’s 20th annual Unity Breakfast.
Actor, songwriter and minister Clifton Davis was the featured speaker at the breakfast attended by about 450 people at the Holiday Inn.
The association presented Ross Malone Jr. and state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, with its 2013 humanitarian awards.
Braziel, a 2012 Austin High graduate, received the $1,500 Florence Byrd Scholarship on Monday. She received a $500 scholarship last year.
“I live with my grandmother, and she will give me what she can, but it’s not much,” Braziel said. “This means so much to me.”
Xzavia Acklin, a University of Alabama sophomore, received a $3,000 scholarship from Daikin America for the second year in a row.
An Austin graduate, Acklin is paying at least $4,600 a semester for tuition at Alabama. That doesn’t include fees, housing, food and living expenses.
Most of the students are using a combination of federal student aid, student loans, part-time work and any scholarships they can scrape together to pay for college.
“This lessens the hardship of attending school,” Acklin said. “If I didn’t get this money, it would mean more loans.”
Most of the group’s scholarships are based on financial need, although association President Murphy Brown said some new endowments are focusing on academic achievement.
Jessica Simpson said she appreciates the $500 association scholarship she received when she graduated from Austin High in 2010. The business administration major is attending Wallace State Community College and working as a McDonald’s manager. She said juggling school and work can get crazy.
“I know $500 is not very much, but it paid for my books,” Simpson said. “Every little bit helps. Any money I can get allows me to work less hours and focus more on my education.”
University of Alabama at Birmingham freshmen Jada Billings and Jakira Myers each received $3,000 minority scholarships from Daikin America and $1,500 from Brown’s DMDA.
The two classmates are from single-parent households, so the money is needed. They said the scholarships do more than help with their education.
“It really helps motivate me,” said Billings, an Austin graduate. “I know there are people out there who are supporting me and want me to do well.”
The minority association has awarded roughly $500,000 in scholarships since its inception, association member Bruce Jones said.
Davis, a graduate of Oakwood College, commended Decatur for its event. The Grammy and Tony awards nominee said he was particularly impressed with the involvement of multiple races.
“What makes this one very special is Decatur has been through a cultural shift,” Davis said. “It has developed a modern society that is a tribute to its cultural diversity.”
Bayne Hughes can be reached at 256-340-2432 or email@example.com.
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