Eight local college students received $500 scholarships from the Lafourche Parish chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in an awards ceremony on Sunday.
The ceremony, taking the place of the traditional scholarship awards banquet due to the ongoing pandemic, was held at the St. Peter Baptist Church in Thibodaux, after its Sunday church service.
The amount of each scholarship was less than the $1,000 awarded in previous years because of the economic hardship caused by the pandemic, according to Lafourche NAACP President Burnell Tolbert, who said he was grateful to have been able to award them at all.
The 2020 scholarship recipients were:
- Lanaa Robertson, Southern University
- Jarriel Jackson, Southern University
- Tiyan Southall, Southern University
- Dawandia Gabriel, Nicholls State University
- Beron Pilot, Southern University
- Zamayiya Jupiter, McNeese State University
- Derione Coleman, Southern University
- Jada Jackson, Southern University
“I was honored honestly,” said Robertson, 18, after receiving the award. “College isn’t a cheap thing to go about and any scholarship that I can get I am thankful for it.”
Robertson said she intends to pursue a career in law, and eventually open her own firm out of state. The law, she said, has always interested her and she wants to pursue something for life that will keep her engaged.
“Law has just always been interesting to me, and I want to make sure I always pursue something that I’m always interested in so that way I don’t have to go to work and dislike what I’m doing,” she said.
To qualify for the scholarships students need to have a grade-point average of 2.0 or better and fill out an application and be starting college, vocational school or the military, said Tolbert. The applications are sent out to the local schools, and he said he was surprised there were only eight who applied this year.
Tolbert urged the recipients to continue to take their education seriously as it would allow them to gain financial success.
“The more you know, the more you grow, “ said Tolbert during the ceremony. “And that means your pocket too.”
About 50 people had gathered in the recently renovated St. Peter church to see the students receive their scholarship, keeping alternating pews empty to facilitate social distancing. Everyone in attendance wore masks.
After a 45-minute church service emphasizing the importance of faith, geared towards the students, the recipients were named and stood in the front of the church for photos.
Faith, said the Rev. Herman Daniels, would carry them through the tough times.
“To the young people going out… your faith goes beyond yourself,” Daniels said. “You know there is something inside you, you can’t see it, but you know it is there.”
Tolbert’s son, Vernell Tolbert, also spoke, telling recipients that two other qualities were also important: perseverance and tenacity. He congratulated the students on completing high school.
“Enjoy,” he said. “This is the beginning.”