LAURINBURG — The loved ones of the late James Underwood Jr. honored his memory last Saturday by helping two young men receive a college education.
Family and friends hope the assistance will allow the students to return the gift someday.
Underwood’s family recognized Tyrek Whitfield and Kevonte McDonald as the 2016 James H. Underwood Jr. Scholarship winners. The recent Scotland High School graduates were honored during a banquet last week which was held at the Storytelling Arts Center. Around 80 people attended the event that included brunch, speeches and an awards presentation.
The James Underwood Jr. Scholarship was founded nearly four years ago in memory of Underwood, a member of the Scotland County School Board at the time of his death at the age of 46. He passed away suddenly on Oct. 4, 2012.
His family said Underwood, who was also a minister, was a huge advocate for community uplift and believed that “teaching the future generations to always reach back and pull a fellow man along was vital to the success of our communities.”
The concept is similar to the old African proverb: “it takes a village to raise a child,” and was a motto that Underwood lived by daily while directing several after-school programs throughout the community, according to his sister Pamela Underwood Russell.
“In an effort to encourage and energize this legacy, the James H. Underwood Jr. Scholarship is designed to assist deserving students who have the same zest for education and community involvement,” she said. “This opportunity provides youth with a key: education that answers the riddle of life and opens many doors to opportunities.”
The Whitfield and McDonald were given $750 each toward their education. The family, which holds various fundraisers throughout the year, has been able to increase the scholarship amount annually. In 2013, students received $250; and in 2014, students got $500.
Successful applicants must plan to attend a historically black college or university; or major in education. Six students applied this academic year.
“I thank God for sending me this scholarship,” said McDonald, 18. “This scholarship is going to give me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams.”
McDonald plans to attend Winston-Salem State to earn a degree in information technology. He is the son of Vicky Robertson.
Whitfield also plans to attend Winston-Salem State and major in finance and accounting.
“Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity and for giving me this scholarship,” he said.
The 17-year-old is the son of Gregory and Dana Whitfield.
Jerry ‘Ji’ Ingram, the recipient of the scholarship in 2015, attended the banquet to offer the two most-recent scholarship winners some advice.
“Stay focused and don’t become partiers,” said Ingram, a 2015 graduate of Scotland High School, who currently attends UNC at Charlotte and is majoring in major in education and minoring in exercise sports science. “And most important, manager your time.”
Ingram plans to become an administrator and eventually a school superintendent. He is the son of Lydia Stewart and Jerry Ingram, Jr.
Past scholars include Khadejah Bennet, Modelle McRae and Victoria McRae.
For information about the scholarship, visit www.jhujscholar.weebly.com
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023