The Los Angeles County Community Development Foundation (LACDF) gave $35,000 in scholarships to 33 students in public housing and Section 8 participants on July 20.
Students attending a four-year university, community college, or vocational program received certificates and $1,000 during the 20th anniversary of the Housing Authority Residents.
Scholarship recipients include top high school graduates and first-generation college students aspiring to succeed in their chosen careers, including several pursuing studies within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, according to organizers.
The ceremony took place during the 2017 Reality Check Conference at the California Endowment Center. Some were first-time awardees and others had their scholarships renewed, according to Shelly Thompson, director of the LACDF, which oversees the program.
“We really rely on the public, a lot of professionals. We have Citi Bank facilitating workshops today. We have Pepperdine University, and the list goes on and on,” Thompson said. Many of the students will be attending local California State Universities with such assistance, she added.
Devin McAlister said he feels very good about his award. “I’m very happy that it was decided that I was worthy of it,” he stated.
He just graduated from Mayfair High School in Lakewood, and is headed to study film-making at California State University Long Beach.
“It means a lot. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who look out for people that might not have the means necessary and to be able to receive that recognition and receive that help is nice. It’s nice to know that there’s someone looking to boost people’s futures,” said McAlister, who lives with his aunt and uncle.
According to the young achiever, his mother died when he was 13 and his father ‘up and left’ before he was born.
The 18-year-old told the Sentinel that he also felt the seminars would be helpful in his future decision-making, particularly a session held on theatre, which is his minor.
At one time in high school, he had a lot of honors classes, but things didn’t work out when he attempted to take an AP (Accelerated Program) class, he said.
“I was kind of doubting myself academically, so I looked towards extra-curriculars, and I found theatre through that. A lot of people there had a lot of appreciation for me and what I did, so I kind of came to love what I do,” McAlister stated.
Maria Badrakhan, Housing Authority director, said the program has been rewarding. She acknowledged the staff of the Housing Authority, other dignitaries and sponsors, who made the program possible for two decades.
Comedian/actor Lewis Dix, Jr. carried the program further as emcee, and introduced Rev. Dr. Helen Esterling Williams, dean of Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology.
“No spelled backwards is on … You have a brain. Use it,” Williams encouraged awardees during her keynote address.
She said she often had to still the voice of doubt in the back of her head. According to the long-time educator, it had been implanted there over time, by several people and occurrences, particularly a school counselor who did not recommend her for college, because she was a girl and on welfare.
“You might be from Carmelitos. You might be from Harbor Hills … you might live in any of the projects around L.A., and there are many, but understand that where you are today will not determine where you will be tomorrow,” Williams said.