Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church’s Scholarship Program put these students and mentors into the spotlight. (Photo: Herman Williams)

by Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Thousands of local seniors reveled this past month in the time-honored stroll across a stage at their formal graduations and made the traditional hat toss in jubilant celebration of a successful high school journey.

Many of those seniors were awarded generous, financial send-offs to their chosen colleges. Twenty very fortunate ones were honored for their impressive list of accomplishments on Saturday at the Annual Scholarship Recognition Day, sponsored by Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church (MBCC).

TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover keynoted the scholarship brunch hosted by Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, whose senior pastor is the Rev. Turner. (Photo: Herman Williams)

The church’s scholarship committee raised funds from donors that included corporate contributors, Greek organizations, small businesses, individuals and church auxiliaries. The bar was set at raising $60,000, with 46 donors raising $94,000.

The celebration began with a late-morning brunch in the dining hall and continued with a processional to the main sanctuary, where Tennessee State University President Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover told graduates that “the world never needed you more than it does in 2019.

“At a time when the world needs as much food over the next year as it needed over the past 15 years, we need your talent and gifts,” she said. “More than ever before, scholars must be poised to serve. Service must be your goal with all of the challenges of education, criminal justice and racial injustice.”

MBCC Pastor Jason Lawrence Turner introduced the native Memphian, touting her dual titles – president of TSU and Supreme Basileus (International President) of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. A sea of ladies in pink and green, the organization’s colors, interrupted him with thunderous applause for Glover.

“I was looking at the program and all of the notable pursuits and fields of study of you graduates,” said Glover. “And you’re moving in the right direction. Stand up for excellence. Stand up for right. Twenty-seven percent of African Americans live in poverty. Forty-two percent of African-American children attend schools with a high level of poverty.

“One in three African Americans can expect to spend some time in prison during their lifetime. And 78 percent of our people live within 30 miles of an environmental hazard. We have never needed you like we need you today.”

She lamented other statistics, calling on the graduates and everyone present to vote. Fifty percent of Christians are not even registered to vote. Of the 22 million African-American voters, seven million did not vote in the last presidential election.

“We all must vote. It is our sacred duty,” she said. “Our vote is soaked in the blood of martyrs. Never has so much money been spent on policies of discrimination and inequality. You graduates are poised for leadership. We must make America fulfill her promise.”

Glover, after. cataloging the ills of the country’s present administration in Washington, struck a note of hope in the endless possibilities of what the upcoming generation will accomplish.

“And we say to Washington, D.C., don’t close the book. We will survive, no matter who sits in the Oval Office. God still sits on the throne. We survived 246 years of slavery and another 100 years of Jim Crow.

“God puts a problem in front of a blessing. All our days are not in yet. There are more days to serve, more days to work, more days to praise. When God takes a little girl from Fields Road and makes her president of Tennessee State University, we know He is worthy of praise.”

The ‘Chosen Ones’

Aubrey and Ginger Smith cheered on their son, Aubrey Smith Jr., one of the honored 20 graduates.

“Aubrey graduated from Collierville High School number 15 in a class of 642,” said Ginger Smith. “He was the only African American to make the top 20.”

Smith also had a 4.0 grade point average and made a perfect 35 on the American College Testing (ACT), winning a full-ride, academic scholarship to Mississippi State University.

Although Smith was a track star in high school, he’s undecided on whether he will take up the sport at MSU.

“My studies come first, so I haven’t decided yet if I will run track,” he said. “I will have a double major in biochemistry and biomedical engineering. I want to come up with new medicines for diabetes, cancer and heart disease.”

Turner amused the audience with his advice to the 20 scholarship awardees.

“I was looking at all the wonderful careers and fields of study you all are pursuing,” he said. “After graduation, I want you to come back to Memphis and to your church, Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, and become tithers. You’ll be making a lot of money.”

Besides Smith Jr., the other scholarship awardees are: Madison Moore, Hutchinson School; Rachel Sumerall, South Side High School; Kasey Washington, Arlington High School; Sabrina Cater, Fairley High School; Breonna Hopkins, Central High School; Jakala Murray, Houston High School; Kenedi Fossett, Ridgeway High School; April Gooden, Craigmont High School; Kamoni Clay, West Memphis Christian School; Maya Moore, Collierville High School; Morris Houser, Collierville High School.

Alfred Johnson IV, St. George’s Independent School; Khendric King, Southwind High School; Barrington Stanford, Mitchell High School; Sterling Parson, White Station High School; Jalen Shaw, Whitehaven High School; Kylan Davis, First Assembly Christian; Jaylin Rainey, White Station High School; and Carter Whittaker, Li Po Chun United World College.