ABOVE: Houston Area Alumnae Second Vice President LaShandra Boddy; Houston Alumnae Chapter President Jona Sargent; Mayor Sylvester Turner; Houston Alumnae Chapter First Vice President Maria Starling, attending 2019 HAC Jazz Soiree, which helps raise scholarship funds (Photos taken by Theos Creations Photography)
Despite this moment of racial turmoil, health uncertainty and economic hardship, the Houston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. recently awarded $121,700 in scholarships over the course of this year. These funds have reduced the financial burden for more than 50 recent high school graduates and current college students.
The organization recognized scholarship winners in a virtual ceremony during May Week, which is an annual observance highlighting academic and professional achievements that emphasize the importance of higher education. As an organization deeply rooted in public service with a focus on the Black community, the scholarship funds were distributed at a critical time of need for recipients.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the Black community. African Americans are dual survivors of the disproportionate health impacts of the coronavirus and an inequitable vulnerability to job loss or pay reduction,” said Jona Sargent, President of the Houston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “Due to the increased financial burden of COVID-19, many families are worried about whether or not they can send their student to college or keep them there. As such, this year we strived to increase our award amounts.”
Recent scholarship funds were raised at the sorority’s 18th Annual Jazz Soirée Scholarship Fundraiser, held in December 2019, in partnership with One Delta Plaza Educational Center (ODPEC). With the $121,700 raised during the sorority’s Jazz Soirée and from members and community partner-funded donations, 37 high school students and six college students received scholarship funding.
The sorority also distributed eight $500 laptop gift cards to graduating high school seniors who participated in Houston Alumnae’s enrichment programs: EMBODI (Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence) and Dr. Jeanne L. Noble GEMS (Growing &, Empowering Myself Successfully). Seventeen of the 29 colleges where awarded students plan to attend, or are currently enrolled, are Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs). Others intend to matriculate to schools such as University of Houston, University of Southern California, Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University.
“We realize that this year was particularly difficult for our applicants and we are humbled by our ability to give during this time,” said Thelma Kennedy-Malveaux, Scholarship Co-Chair of the Houston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “Our total awards have greater importance this year. Many other scholarship programs were not available because of the abbreviated academic year.”
To qualify for these scholarships, student applicants were required to meet grade point average, citizenship/residency, and other criteria, while displaying commitment to furthering their education. In addition to Kennedy-Malveaux, Nita Gilbert, the other Scholarship Co-Chair, and HAC committee members helped award funds to deserving students.
The Houston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was chartered in 1927, as the first Houston-area chapter of the not-for-profit, public service sisterhood. They have awarded more than $1 million to hundreds of high-achieving students in pursuit of higher education since 1997.