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14th Annual Student Awards Ceremony

2020 Student Loan Debt Paydown recipient Blair Smith accepting award from Central Scholarship President Tierra Dorsey

14th Annual Student Awards Ceremony

Posted: 08.16.21

Thank you to all the Donors, Students, Partners, and Volunteers who attended our 14th Annual Student Awards Ceremony both in-person and virtually! Resilience describes more than just our home state, Central Scholarship students embody that notion and support the mission to make education affordable for all Maryland students.

If you missed the event the first time around, not to worry, below is a recording so you can catch up on the fun anytime!

Keynote speaker Wanda Q. Draper

Central Scholarship is pleased to announce Wanda Q. Draper as this year’s SAC keynote speaker

Posted: 07.26.21

A native of Baltimore, Wanda Queen Draper graduated from the University of Maryland School of Journalism. She also attended Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Contemporary Studies and the University of Maryland School of Law.

She started her career in Journalism as a student reporter with local television, radio stations and daily newspapers while still in high school. Thus began a 43-year career as a reporter and talk show host that culminated with a 25-year broadcast management career at WBAL-TV 11, where she retired as Director of Programming and Public Affairs.

She annually provided media sponsorship to more than 30 non-profits contributing more than $4 million to support cultural arts, education, and human services for Marylanders. The highlight of her community service was serving on the founding board of the Reginald Lewis Museum from 1999 to 2008. During that time $38 million was raised to build the Museum and $2 million to install the permanent collection. She was honored to be appointed Executive Director in 2016 and delayed her retirement.

During her tenure, she assembled a management team and created a culture of excellence and transformed the museum into a must-see attraction for locals and visitors. In two years, she bought renewed vim and vigor to the once ailing museum and put it on a trajectory for success. By the numbers, she increased revenue 340 percent, attendance by seven percent and student visits by 40 percent.

Wanda currently serves on the board of Visit Baltimore, the University of Maryland Medical System, the School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University and the WBAL Kids Campaign. She has won numerous local and national awards for broadcasting and community service. She has also been awarded two honorary doctorate degrees.

Wanda is married to Dr. Robert Draper. They have two children and three grandchildren and one more on the way.

About the 14th Annual Student Awards Ceremony

The 2021 Student Awards Ceremony, Coming Back to Baltimore: A Celebration of the Resiliency of Central Scholarship Recipients, will be held on August 10, 2021. In-person attendance will be limited due to COVID-19 protocols, but the event will be live-streamed on the night so that all may celebrate the resiliency of our award recipients! All in-person attendees MUST be vaccinated against COVID-19 and able to provide proof – NO EXCEPTIONS.

Photo of the Programs Summer Intern, Emily Zhu

Central Scholarship Welcomes Newest Summer Intern

Posted: 06.28.21

Central Scholarship is proud to welcome 2020 Straus Scholar Emily Zhu to our team as the Program Associate Intern for the summer of 2021. Emily is a graduate of Dulaney High School and will be a sophomore at the University of Virginia when she returns to campus in the fall. Her academic interests are broad, ranging from biomedicine to mathematics to education, and she has worked or volunteered as a newspaper editor, computational memory researcher, and medical assistant. Last year she spent a semester teaching Mandarin Chinese to kids ranging in age from 3 to 14, creating her own curriculum for delivery over Zoom. We are excited to have Emily and her many talents with us in the office as we work to select our 2021-2022 scholarship recipients.

Learn more about Central Scholarship’s team or ways you can volunteer!

saving money

Finding Financial Aid Resources Through College Cash

Posted: 02.24.21

For students and parents, this time of year can be stressful as you think of ways to pay for college and what financial aid resources are available. At Central Scholarship we offer a free informational seminar called College Cash. The seminar is focused on college affordability and financial aid. College Cash helps not only Maryland students but aims to help educate parents about the financial aid process.

According to Sallie Mae COVID-19 hasn’t stopped students from moving forward with higher education but fewer families are completing the FAFSA which means money and resources are being overlooked. We understand finding financial aid can be intimidating but with our free seminar, students, and their families will learn how to navigate the process smoother by:

  • Learning how to maximize federal financial aid
  • Understanding student loans
  • Standing out from the crowd through a scholarship essay
  • Avoiding scholarship award displacement

For students who have not completed their FAFSA but want to continue their higher-level education, submissions, and financial aid decisions are made on a continuous rolling basis. So, it’s not too late to apply.

For students and parents interested in College Cash, the 2021 seminar dates will be posted soon and in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are happy to discuss virtual options as well. Please contact Michele Waxman Johnson, Vice President at 410-415-5558 or send Michele an email to schedule a session.

Portrait of Scholarship recipient Erka Maher

Student Spotlight: Erika Maher

Posted: 11.11.20

Meet Erika Maher, a bright, hard-working STEM student at the University of Maryland, College Park. She hopes to one day apply her problem-solving skills to create environmentally friendly methods of air transportation. Erika credits the generous financial aid she received from Central Scholarship for allowing her to fulfill her dream of studying aerospace engineering at one of the top programs in the country. Erika explains, “Central Scholarship has made a world of difference for me, both in terms of financing my education and as a support system.”

Erika grew up in Baltimore and earned a full-tuition scholarship to Catholic High School. Her education during these years prepared her for college and introduced her to the opportunities college financial aid could provide. The product of a single-income, single-parent household, Erika was determined to find a way to pay for college on her own. She explains that her mother is her role model, and works hard as a nurse to support Erika and her brother. To achieve her goal of self-financing her college education, and to show appreciation for her mother’s hard work and support, she held three jobs to pay her tuition.

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed Erika’s plans by eliminating all but one of her jobs. Erika was uncertain how she would pay for school and worried that she would not be able to achieve her goal of independently paying for her education. While researching scholarship opportunities online, Erika learned about Central Scholarship and was thrilled to find that the organization matched her needs and academic goals. Furthermore, she appreciated the way in which Central Scholarships’ support system guided her through the process of applying for financial aid. She describes her experience saying, “The people at Central Scholarship are genuinely kind people, who truly care about their work and have added a very personal touch to academic scholarships. Their generous donation to my education has been a very appreciated blessing.”

Thanks to Central Scholarship, Erika is thriving at the University of Maryland. When not busy with her studies, she serves as Secretary on the Executive Board of the Society of Women Engineers, a programming board member of FLEXUS, the Living, Learning Community for Women in Engineering at UMD, and a sub-group lead for the Peru team of Engineers Without Borders. Erika is also active in Alpha Omega Epsilon, a professional sorority for women in STEM, and Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics. These activities help her develop her professional skills, bond with other STEM women and minorities, and empower her to lead in the classroom.

We are excited to see what the future holds for this young engineering student and are thrilled that Central Scholarship is able to help her achieve her goals! Learn how you can make a difference and help other students remove financial barriers and build bright futures with higher education.

Move Maryland logo over image of athlete doing a situp

Join MOVE Maryland in Support of Central Scholarship!

Posted: 09.15.20

Help Out While You Workout During MOVE Maryland

What will make you feel better than a great workout? Participating in MOVE Maryland! The event is the perfect opportunity to raise money in support of Central Scholarship while participating in energizing fitness classes with some of Baltimore’s best instructors!

Central Scholarship is honored to partner with MOVE Maryland, a virtual day of wellness to get participants moving and move Maryland’s nonprofits forward. As one of more than two dozen MOVE Maryland partners, Central Scholarship is exited to increase support for our mission while joining other Maryland nonprofits to create one powerful voice for change. MOVE Maryland makes you stronger while making Central Scholarship stronger!

Participants sign up to raise $200 for their chosen nonprofit, and if they meet their goal, they will receive an access code to participate in inspirational online fitness classes. The event presents a wonderful opportunity for groups of employees to foster team building and enjoy a virtual day of fitness and fun while giving back to the community.

How to Participate and Support Central Scholarship

  1. Register and choose Central Scholarship as your favorite nonprofit.
  2. Create a team and give back to the community together!
  3. Rally your network to fundraise.
  4. Join us on November 7th as instructors lead spin, barre, Tae Bo, and family bootcamp sessions, accompanied by the tunes of the legendary DJ Kopec.

Support Central Scholarship’s Critical Mission

Our organization offers generous, crucial support to students, empowering them to consider all types of education, including undergraduate, graduate, and career training studies. The program provides students with more than $1 million per year in interest free student loans and scholarships. Removing financial barriers to education offers these students a lifetime of economic opportunity and mobility.

Sign up for MOVE Maryland today and join us on November 7th for an inspiring day of fitness and support for Central Scholarship!

Conversation with Ben-Oni

Video Chat Series

Posted: 08.31.20

This month, Abby Case, our Annual Fund and Stewardship Manager had the pleasure of chatting with Ben-oni (Ben) Vainquer. Ben grew up in Silver Spring, MD, and became a Central Scholarship recipient last year. He is a rising sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.

Fun Facts:

  • Ben is on the “Four-year, three-month coop plan” at Northeastern.
  • He is majoring in Computer Engineering and Computer Science and minoring in Math.
  • An enthusiastic tech fan, he loves pursuing Robotics at school.

Dream Turned Reality

Ben was always involved in extracurriculars and clubs in high school, but he was never quite sure college was in his future. He didn’t know if he’d be able to finance it. “It didn’t click that I could go to college until I got my first acceptance letter in the mail. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is really happening!’”

Most Surprising Thing About College

Upon reflecting on his Freshman year, Ben concludes that the biggest challenge was learning how to be completely independent. “I knew that it would be tough, but I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to balance my classes, schedule, and responsibilities.”

At the end of his first semester, Ben said he had a pivotal moment where he had put about 100 hours of work into building an autonomous robotic car for class. The deadline was approaching, and in the wee hours of the morning, as he was pulling an all-nighter, he finally got the car to work. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the semester if I could do that, I would have said no way. But I looked at all the code I had written and realized how much I had learned that semester. I felt really accomplished.”

The COVID-19 Effect

Ben explained how he took the pandemic seriously, early on. “I was worried about getting out of Boston and back to Silver Spring quickly. Luckily, I was able to store stuff at a friend’s house in the area, and as soon as we were clear to leave campus, I avoided the airport and took a bus home. There was hardly anyone on the bus, and I traveled with a mask and hand sanitizer, so I was ok.” He, like so many other students, was looking forward to so many things in the Spring. “It was weird saying goodbye to friends because we didn’t know when we’d be seeing each other again.”

In Ben’s opinion, the most difficult thing about adapting to online classes has been not really being able to ask in-depth questions. “I really like bouncing ideas off my classmates and professors. It’s so much harder to do that online versus in person.”

What do students need?

“I think the most important thing colleges can do for their students is to communicate transparently about what is going on and what could happen next. Also, students and professors should support each other as online learning is a huge adjustment.”

Heading Back for the Fall

At Northeastern, they have made it optional for students to be on campus to work remotely. Ben is choosing to move back on campus. “There’s an on-campus testing site, and they are making sure social distancing orders are in place. Teachers will be wearing face shields, and students will be wearing masks. It’s worth it for me to go back because I’m taking three labs this semester, and I thrive in a classroom setting.”

Ben, we’re so proud to call you a Central Scholar. Keep up the exceptional work, and let us know how your fall semester turns out!

Portrait of Christopher Robinson

Student Spotlight: Chris Robinson

Posted: 08.03.20

Chris is a rising sophomore at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), majoring in Environmental Science. We were able to snag him for an interview before going back to campus for resident assistant training.

Like so many others, Chris’ freshman year on campus was cut short, due to COVID-19. “Besides disrupting the routine that I had become accustomed to, switching to an online format was not as easy as it would seem,” Chris explained. Some struggles came from having professors who had never taught in a digital format, while other challenges came from being isolated at home with siblings. “In the end, we figured out how to make it work, and I was able to end the year with a 3.8 GPA.” (Impressive work, Chris!)

Part of the reason Chris chose UMES was because he could be involved with the American Fisheries Society (AFS) on campus. “[My school has] a 5-year M.S./B. S program in my field with a focus on Marine and Estuarine Science. I decided right away that was the track I wanted to follow.”

The AFS is a national professional organization “focused on strengthening the fisheries, advancing fisheries science and conserving fisheries resources,” according to its website. UMES has a sub-unit that is a conglomerate of students (both grad and undergrad) with a major connected to environmental and fisheries sciences. “We are an outreach program, focusing on community events such as open houses, beach clean-ups, and campus-wide education. It is a way for us to share knowledge and resources with other students and community members,” Robinson said.

Chris first learned about Central Scholarship from Harford County Public Schools scholarship page. “As a first-generation college student, one of my biggest concerns was how I was going to afford school. Being a scholarship recipient has helped take some of that pressure off and allowed me to focus on my education,” Robinson said.

While graduation still seems far away, Chris hopes to continue his education, possibly to the Doctorate level. “My ultimate end goal is to be able to have a job in environmental research that can have a lasting impact on our natural environment.”

We look forward to Chris’ future accomplishments and wish him well as he returns to campus this fall! Learn how you can make a difference and help other students remove financial barriers and build bright futures with higher education.

Kyarah Mair

Education and Advocacy

Posted: 07.21.20

Kyarah Mair is a Central Scholar and senior at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is studying Public Policy & Racial Economic Inequality, a major she created. “In my junior year, I discovered that I could combine [all my interests] Economics, African American Studies, Sociology, and Public Policy into one area of study,” Mair explains.

Kyarah discovered Central Scholarship when she was figuring out how she was going to fund her education, as she was applying to colleges. “My mom’s colleague suggested we look into Central Scholarship.” It worked out! “Without [Central Scholarship’s] generous support, I would owe thousands in student loan debt.”

With more financial freedom, Kyarah has been able to hone in on what her future has in store. She landed an internship in her sophomore year with Prosperity Now, an organization working to ensure that everyone in the U.S. has a clear path to financial stability, which influenced her decision to create her major. She worked on the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at the nonprofit. She supported their work with the Northwest Area Foundation on the African American Financial Capability Initiative: a $4.35 million investment aimed to develop and implement innovative solutions to racial, economic inequality in the U.S.

“This experience inspired me to dedicate my career to creating solutions that address racial, economic inequality, and other social and economic issues more broadly,” says Mair. “I was also inspired to find other think tanks and nonprofits doing this work. These experiences have kickstarted my career in being a racial justice advocate and scholar.”

Mair will graduate in August of this year. After graduation, she plans to take time off from school to gain work experience before pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Policy/Public Policy Analysis, Economics, or Sociology. “After I complete my Ph.D., I want to continue collaborating with think tanks, nonprofits, and government agencies centered around people of color and creating solutions that address racial inequities.” Eventually, she plans to create a public sector consulting firm that will help local, state, and federal governments address the racial equity issues their constituents are experiencing and use the profits to give back to the community.

We are so excited to see what the future has in store for you, Kyarah. Thanks for the inspirational work you are doing!

The Impact of COVID-19 - How Have Students Been Affected?

Virtual Voices

Posted: 06.30.20

This week, we chatted with Savoy Adams, a stellar Central Scholar who just finished up his Freshman year at Loyola University. We discussed the impacts of COVID-19 and race relations in the US.

How has COVID-19 impacted you and other students?

Transitioning to online classes was tough – probably just as much for the professors as it was for the students. There are many distractions at home, so it made it harder to concentrate than if we were in the classroom. Also, I was involved in a lot – like the podcast I run at the radio station, and my internship. Everything came to a halt, and we had to adjust.

What do students need right now?

From a practical sense, they need stable technology and internet access because everything is online and hinges on those things. Functioning laptops, Chromebooks, and Wi-Fi are essential for getting through this time.

How has all this affected your summer?

It has changed everything. I was supposed to take a volunteer trip to Israel to teach students how to play squash through a nonprofit. I was looking forward to it, but the organization postponed it until next summer. So now, I think I’m going to focus on career planning. I’m not sure about what I want to pursue, so I plan on emailing and interviewing people who work in fields that I’m interested in, so when I go back to school, I’ll have a better idea of what I want to study.

What do you think the impact of racial inequality is right now?

I have been deeply affected by everything, particularly because I am a Black male. It’s discouraging because Black communities were suffering from COVID-19 in addition to job insecurities, disparities regarding injustice in poverty, education, and police violence. That’s why I want to focus on my career this summer because I want to find a profession that allows me to help others.

Savoy, we know that you are destined to change the world for the better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and we are so excited to see you continue your collegiate journey!