Urban League Black Scholars— Investing in the Next Generation

Urban League Black Scholars— Investing in the Next Generation




By Anitra M. Anderson

The first time I was exposed to the Black Scholars program was around the age of 10. I remember being in my godparents’ home and saw a plaque on the wall that was different than the others. At first, I thought it was some kind of diploma; but as I read it, I found that it was an academic award.
I inquired of my god sister, in college at the time, about what the plaque represented; and she informed me that she consistently earned high grades in high school and was named a Black Scholar. It was that day that I decided that it seemed “easy” enough and that I would become a Black Scholar as well.  My high school journey began at Benjamin Franklin High School in the fall of 1998 (“old” Franklin). At the time I was determined to be a doctor and was enrolled in the BioScience program. With determination and focus, I became an “early recognition” Black scholar my freshman, sophomore and junior years in high school.
I still remember my first Early Recognition Black Scholars ceremony as it was held at East High School. I was surrounded by my peers from school as well as my family. I thought to myself that I was actually being rewarded for being smart and doing my best in school, which is what my parents always instructed me to do.
Throughout those years, the Urban League exposed me to a number of opportunities, such as the SAT prep program held at REOC (Rochester Educational Opportunity Center) and numerous college fairs and tours. The college fairs deepened my desire to attend an HBCU (Historically Black College and University). By my sophomore year, I knew I would attend Howard University. That all changed, however, during my senior year when Spelman College sent me an application. After visiting the campus in Atlanta, I fell in love with Spelman. Once I was accepted at Spelman, finances to pay my tuition became a concern; and the Urban League Black Scholars program played a role in addressing the concern. As a Black Scholar I was eligible for a number of scholarships, and so I applied to all that I could get my hands on.

I distinctly remember that during the Black Scholars Gala my senior year, I found that I was the recipient of many scholarships presented that night. So much so that my classmates were like, “How many did you apply to?” I was surprised at the amount that I received that night as I wasn’t expecting that many. I know that being a Black Scholar allowed me to be in a position to be eligible for those academic rewards. During my sophomore year at Spelman College, I had a major need in order to complete the year. It was at this time I approached the Urban League about any possible assistance they could provide. I remember meeting with the board to discuss my level of need. They informed me that if they chose to invest in me, they expected me to give back to my community. They wanted to ensure that their investment would yield a return and impact the Rochester community. After graduating from Spelman College, the first job I held once I returned to Rochester was with Action for a Better Community.

I was a Job Readiness Trainer. In this role, I was able to assist those from various backgrounds and challenges in becoming prepared for the workplace. Without the Black Scholars program, I know that I would not be where I am today. This program exposed me to so much and further encouraged me to not let the neighborhood in which I grew up, the school I attended, and the lack of financial resources hold me back from giving my best and accomplishing my dreams. I pray that this program continues to be around for many decades to come. Black Scholars encourages and brings hope to the young people in the Rochester community.