Black student athletes at a Georgia high school received a generous gift from an anonymous donor who offered to pay their college tuition if they maintain straight A’s.
According to CNN, the donor is a member of the Roswell, Georgia community where Centennial High School is located. The donor, the outlet reported, was inspired to make the gift after seeing the lack of diversity of the school’s athlete scholarship. The Centennial Athletic Department requires its athletes to maintain a grade point average above 90, but most of the football team’s players, who are Black, didn’t receive an award.
“When we tweeted out a photo of these scholar athletes after one of our banquets, it was like 16 kids from the football team, and all but one was white,” Centennial High School athletics director Jeff Burch told CNN. “Our football team does not look like that, our team is predominately African American, and he said ‘That needs to change.’”
To get the players motivated about their studies, the donor provided the college tuition payment incentive. Burch told the outlet he was expecting a gift more along the lines of t-shirts, or paying athletic fees, or even electronics, not college tuition.
“It blew my mind,” Burch said. “Many kids thought this was unattainable, they thought they couldn’t do it, but they did. And when they realized what they were capable of, that they can reach the goals they put in mind, it changed their lives.”
Five students have received the scholarship since the donor made the pledge in 2019.
“The scholarship changed my life and changed the way I view life totally,” 18-year-old Evan Walker told CNN. “It pushed me into a different mindset. Either I can be average or be above average, and this made me realize I can get all As, just to prove to myself I can get what I want.”
Walker is a recent graduate of Centennial who is currently choosing between pursuing civil engineering at Georgia Southern University and pre-law at Purdue University. Beyond the financial relief the donation made for Walker and the other recipients, Burch says the hard work and habits he built to earn the award was also massively beneficial.
“The financial gift is obviously unbelievable, but the dedication, work ethic, and study habits it takes to get that 90 [grade point average] is going to serve them so well moving forward and preparing them for after high school,” Burch said.
“It really has the potential to spark generational change for those students as they have their own families and kids.”
Walker has this message to other high school athletes: “To any kid who feels like they can’t compete with other white kids that get scholarships they don’t receive, don’t let that stop you from being the best in or outside the classroom, even if it takes all your life.”
Photo: Getty Images