Kelsyn Parker Data News Weekly Contributor
The United Negro College Fund adapted its Annual National Walk for Education to a virtual format given the COVID-19 Pandemic, in support of its mission to raise funds for students at Historically Black Universities and Colleges. Celebrities and students alike joined the event to aid the UNCF in raising funds needed to accomplish the goal of empowering African American students through educational scholarships.
“Tuition and the cost of living continue to rise while rampant social injustice and now COVID-19 wreak havoc on thousands of lives,” said Shaquille O’Neal, the former Professional Basketball Player and Hall of Famer. “It could seem [like] a pretty bleak time to pursue your dreams, but the great news is UNCF and its Historically Black Colleges and Universities are helping to change the narrative and shrink the gap of educational injustice for many deserving young men and women by helping them get the education they need,” O’Neal said while prompting the audience to donate to the cause of the UNCF.
O’Neal joined other celebrities like Grammy-Winning Recording Artist Anthony Hamilton, Emmy-Winning Actress Lynn Whitfield, and Actor-Comedian Jonathan Slocumb to encourage annual giving to the UNCF. However, celebrities weren’t the only ones highlighting the benefits of contributing funds to the organization.
“I honestly believe if I hadn’t gotten the [UNCF] scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my semesters successfully,” said Brionna McGhee, a sophomore at Xavier University of Louisiana. “I know that since I’ve been here [at Xavier], I’ve met so many great people that have connected me to so many opportunities that I probably would not have gotten anywhere else,” McGhee said when speaking on the impact on receiving a scholarship from the UNCF.
Gratefulness towards the acts of the UNCF from students transcended Louisiana’s state lines into neighboring Texas during the virtual event. “I had different expectations for college. I thought that college was more of a swim-with-the-sharks experience,” said Alia Scott, a junior at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. “Attending a UNCF school definitely made it easier for me and other students because you can see the difference at how they support you and work with you versus just leaving you,” Scott said when comparing UNCF schools to those not under the UNCF brand.
Despite the social restrictions and high levels of unemployment in the Black community as a result of job loss due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the organization noted that their mission is even more important at this time to ensure Black students can afford a college education.
“We at UNCF are more determined than ever that our talented and deserving students will get the important, vital resources necessary to help them earn their college degrees that they need to succeed,” said Michael Lomax, Ph.D., the President of United Negro College Fund.
“Without them, we are lost,” he said. “HBCUs and its students are persevering, but they still need our support.”