Legacy Awards recognize area's most promising youth

By Tom Schram

All four segments of The Skillman Foundation’s Promising Youth Legacy Scholarships were well represented at the awards ceremony held Aug. 22 at the University of Michigan Center at Orchestra Place in Detroit. 

Promising, because the 50 recipients of the awards represent the future of a city determined to rebound from hard times. 

Ruby_Dockery

Award recipient Ruby Dockery (above right, with her mom) graduated from the Detroit School of the Arts in June and will be using her scholarship funds to attend Grand Valley State University.

Youth, because of the fresh, smiling faces that lined up with visible excitement to accept the awards. 

Legacy, because each award-winner is committed to giving back to the community. 

Scholarships, because the young men and women gathered will use the funding – up to $10,000 – to pay for an education, which they would have otherwise struggled to obtain, or perhaps not obtained at all.

The program is a perfect reflection of where The Skillman Foundation stands today, said the Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Program Tonya Allen.

“As a part of our 50th anniversary celebration, we wanted to do something that we think will be extraordinary and that would speak not only to the legacy of the Foundation, but to the future of the Foundation,” Allen said.

Eduardo_Salas

This scholarship will ease Eduardo Salas' worries of returning to the University of Michigan. He celebrated this award with his mom.

The $500,000 in Promising Youth Legacy Awards go to 50 of the Detroit area’s most promising young students who were nominated by churches, teachers and non-profit organizations to help the students with their college expenses. It is an investment in Detroit and its residents, Allen said.

“A lot of times at The Skillman Foundation, we have an opportunity to be at the table when there is a discussion about how to bring about the big changes that happen in the city,” Allen said. “And we agree that to achieve those changes we do need to bring people in from outside the city. But while we do that, we need to recognize that we already have talent within the city. And that talent is represented by you.”

The Coleman A. Young Foundation will administer the scholarships, mentor the students and monitor their academic progress. Young Foundation Chief Operating Officer Dr. Claudette Smith reminded the recipients that when they work with their mentors and commit to the community service requirement for the scholarships, the payoff will be tremendous.

Sean Moua

Sean Moua, who attended with his father Blong, graduated in June and will be attending Eastern Michigan University.

“You will get rewarded if you are patient, resilient and focused,” she said.

Skillman Foundation President and CEO Carol Goss put a historical perspective on the issue.

“These Legacy Scholarships are a culmination of our founder Rose Skillman’s visions,” Goss said. “She and her husband, Robert, never had children of their own, but they always wanted to make a difference for young people. So as I think about whether we at The Skillman Foundation are doing everything that she envisioned, I believe that this 50 Promising Scholars program is one of the programs she would have been so proud of.”

Goss also looked ahead.

“You are the future leaders of our community,” she told the packed house at the U-M Center. “You hear a lot of stories about what children are not doing. But this is a story about what children are doing.”

Ruby Dockery graduated from the Detroit School of the Arts in June and will be using her scholarship funds to attend Grand Valley State University.

“I’ll be the first in our family to attend a four-year college, and I’m very excited,” she said. “I can’t wait to come back home and support my community.”

Like most scholarship winners, she brought a parent to the ceremony. Bethany Dockery said her family had recently lost its home, but the family is staying upbeat about the future.

“We can really use the extra funding right now,” she said. “We’re a middle-class family, and we make too much to receive low-income funding, but not enough to really be able to pay to send a child away to college.”

Scholarship winner Eduardo Salas, who graduated in 2010 from Western International High School, has already spent a year at the University of Michigan, but had concerns about returning for his sophomore year.

“I was stressing a lot about paying for my dorm,” Salas said. “My mom’s unemployed and my dad just started a job. So this is great.”

Jasmine and Sarah Vang are sibling scholarship winners. Jasmine graduated from Osborn Academy in June and is enrolled at Michigan State. Sarah is entering her junior year at Osborn. To them, the scholarships represent a path to attend college without further burdening their family.

“We already have a sister attending MSU,” Jasmine said. “She’s the first one in our family to attend college. My parents both work hard all day and these scholarships really take a load off their shoulders.”

Sean Moua, who graduated in June and will be attending Eastern Michigan University, attended with his father, Blong.

“We are middle class,” Sean said. “I do not want my parents to have to worry about paying for my college because they already have a lot of bills to pay, so this will be a big help.”