SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise and protestors taking to the streets after the recent death of George Floyd, one foundation is shedding light on the positives and honoring bright young women in an unsettling time.
Saturday marked the 3rd Annual Scholarship and Awards Ceremony for the Celebrate Sisters Foundation and this year, $1,000 was awarded to a young woman with a bright future in STEM. Destney Johnson was the winner of the scholarship for 2020 and has plans to major in Computer Information Systems at Grambling State University. Johnson will be honored along with Deniya Boykin, who graduated high school and was the first student to graduate from this program.
“For the young group that we focus on, we really want to make sure that they are able to voice themselves. We are more like a sounding board, and we pay really close attention to their dynamics. And the celebration today, what we try to do is celebrate them— that’s why we are called “Celebrate Sisters”— because that’s not often what we see. We always see negativity and what people are doing wrong, and we want to highlight the great things that they are doing,” said one of the founders of the Celebrate Sisters Foundation, Dr. Ja’Wanda Grant.
While the main focus of the event was to showcase talented young women on the Coast, specifically Mississippi and Louisiana, the overall goal is to help shape them into successful individuals that will flourish in their field. They accomplish that mission in two ways: mentorship and scholarship.
This year the scholarship was set at $1,000 and will be given to the recipient for their first year in college. Grant noted this award has grown from $500 to $1,000 within three years. This jump was possible due to generous donors, who provide all of the funding for the chosen recipient.
Additionally, the foundation’s hope is to be able to continue a scholarship that will last the award winner throughout their time in college.
“Because you get all of these scholarships your first year," Grant said, "and then the second year you don’t have the same funds. So we’d like it to be an ongoing scholarship that she can have throughout their four years.”
Grant said that they want to help college students boost their pool of scholarship money by finding more resources and opportunities for funding such as fellowships.
She also said they wish to establish an apprenticeship program by connecting students with STEM professionals and having them learn from employees in the field.
This would similar to their mentorship program that matches up women working in the desired line of work, appealing to the specific student. The student may also partner up with someone they feel comfortable with, regardless of the profession. The mentorship is ultimately based on connection.
In response to recent events centered around racism, Grant said they are ramping up their intensity when it comes to mentoring. This means they are helping the young ladies in their program realize they have the foundation’s support and a safe place where they can talk about what is going on.
“We don’t emphasize it in the sense that racial injustice as a focal area, we look at it: how do you flip the script and shed light on the positive things that are happening,” she said.
Helping students deal with stress is another component they aim to address in their organization.
“We also talk about being their best because that’s also one way that they can show up in the world and make change— in whatever the work is that they do," Grant said.
Seniors in high school can apply for look for the scholarship in early spring. For more information regarding the Celebrate Sisters Foundation, click here.