Categories
People

Jim Cunningham

Jim Cunningham

Hometown: Columbus, MS

high school: Mississippi School for Science and Math

college: Princeton University

MAJOR: Philosophy

At age seven, Jim watched neighborhood children scrap in the street amidst poverty, drugs, and chaos. He credits these experiences with his deep commitment to serving and improving the lives of “folks in the hood.” Since ninth grade, Jim has devoted his weekends, summers, and holidays to serving his community. He has distributed food to homeless people on Thanksgiving Day, spent summers teaching Algebra 1 to low-income African-American students, toiled in the back yards of elderly neighbors, and founded an individual mentorship program for entering high school freshmen. Service is the theme of his future aspirations—two of which are to establish a non-profit organization for academically gifted low-income students and specialty schools for low-income students.

Ask Jim where he gets his drive and determination, and he’ll credit his mother, Andrea Cunningham. Quiet and calm, yet strong-willed and hardworking, Jim’s mother—a single parent with four kids—sacrificed her youth to raise him. Jim’s mother always encouraged him to do two things: never forget God and always work hard.

The latter characteristic, work ethic, coupled with his intense curiosity explains Jim’s academic success. Whether he was striving to be the only African-American Rotary Scholar from his community, or persevering to maintain a 4.0 GPA at Mississippi’s most rigorous high school (The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science), Jim devoted many late nights to extra studying, while his family and peers slept. His efforts have paid off; Jim has been named a Rotary Scholar, Zeubar Scholar, Governor Scholar, Questbridge Prep Scholar, and 100 Black Men Recipient. One of Jim’s proudest achievements, being named a LEDA Scholar, granted him the all-expense paid opportunity of spending seven weeks at a leadership development program at Princeton University.

Jim is also known throughout his community for his “golden voice.” At an early age, Jim realized his gift while singing “I’ll Fly Away” in his “home-made” band, in which he and his siblings played musical instruments created from cooking pots, pans, hanger sticks, and cardboard boxes. Later recognized locally and regionally for his musical gift, Jim has been choir director for Voices in Harmony and his local Boys & Girls Club’s children choir. He is also a male vocal leader of a male quartet group, a vocal intern at First United Methodist Church, a two time regional talent show winner, and a two time All-State honor choir member. Jim plays the trumpet, guitar, and the piano. As a trumpeter, Jim participates in honor bands across the state such as those at Delta State University, Northeast Community College, Itawamba Community College, Mississippi State University, the All-State Honor Band. Jim has also performed at Music in the Parks in San-Antonio, Dallas, Orlando, and New York.

Drawing compassion from personal struggle, with a heart for grassroots leadership and a focus on low-income student education, Jim plans to double-major in education and business so that he may happily begin his purpose driven-life.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Jordan Alston-Harmon

Jordan Alston-Harmon

Hometown: Hackensack, NJ

high school: Bergen County Academies

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Government

Jordan Alston-Harmon graduated from Harvard University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Government and a minor in Sociology. During his first semester, he was appointed as co-chair of the Politics of Race and Ethnicity (PRE) initiative within the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP). There, he helped organize weekly discussions among politicians, professors, and PRE members on political issues that intersect with race, such as mass incarceration and immigration. During his two semesters leading this group, he helped increase African-American, Native American, Latino, and Asian representation in the IOP by collaborating with cultural groups on campus. Additionally, Jordan traveled off campus once a week to tutor and mentor young men at the Judge Connelly Youth Center. 

His interest in the law motivated him to join the Harvard Mock Trial Association, where he competed as an attorney for three years. In his first year of competition, his team won the National Championship, the first team to do so in Harvard’s history. After his first year, he was elected to lead the team as program captain for the following two years. He has been selected twice as an All-American Attorney, three times as an All-National and All-Regional Attorney, and as an “Outstanding Attorney” at multiple invitational tournaments.

Currently, Jordan works as a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company with plans to attend law school in the future.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Josie Francois

Josie Francois

Hometown: Oakland Park, FL

high school: American Heritage School

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Chemistry and Economics

Josie François was born in a small, rural town in Haiti. Most people in the town live on a few dollars a day— or less. Many are illiterate. Josie is lucky to come from a family that prizes literacy, education, compassion, and a strong work ethic. Josie has always loved learning, but it was not until she came to the U.S. that she began to think about school, education, and her future. Josie wanted to go to college and decided that she wanted to become a doctor and do mission work abroad to help those in the same situation she came from.

Josie knew that achieving all her goals, which included being accepted into a good college and being able to afford a quality college education, would take hard work and perseverance on her part, but she was up for the challenge. She is a hard worker and never backs away from a challenge. She always strives to do more, be more, and be better than she was before. She is her biggest motivator and competitor.

Josie is thankful and appreciative of all that her mother has done for her; without her mother she would not be where she is today. Her mother has always supported and taken care of Josie and her younger brother. She has always taught them that a good education is worth sacrificing for and that a college education is a must. She has always encouraged them to work hard and apply themselves in school because a good education will enable them to lift themselves out of poverty and enhance their knowledge.

Josie’s personal struggles have made Josie who she is today. They have taught her that she is a lot stronger and more capable than she may think. She no longer underestimates herself, and when others underestimate her, it does not bother her because she knows all that she has achieved and is capable of achieving. Her struggles have also taught her to never give up or get discouraged because things do get better. When the going gets tough, she stays put and works even harder to achieve her goals. Furthermore, because Josie herself has struggled, she is more empathetic towards, helpful to, and supportive of others. Overall, her struggles have made her a better person, the person she is today. Josie has come a long way, and she plans to go much further.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Njeri Grevious

Njeri Grevious

Hometown: Newton, MA

high school: Boston University Academy

college: Yale University

MAJOR: Applied Mathematics

Njeri Kamilah Grevious is an academically and musically accomplished high school senior with special strengths in mathematics, violin/viola performance and music theory. She is kindhearted and cares about reaching out to others. Her name – Njeri – is Kikuyu for “daughter of a warrior”: fitting for a young lady whose strength has carried her through several difficult moves as well as unfortunate financial and family traumas.

She has persevered and enjoyed a rigorous, honors high school curriculum, including eleven undergraduate classes. She also earned a national Johns Hopkins CTY Distinction in Mathematics. Njeri began excelling in math at the kitchen table at a very young age. Yet at school in the 5th grade, she was denied the opportunity to advance a grade even though a child who did not look like her was promoted. Since then, Njeri has studied multivariable calculus, statistics and linear algebra and has been determined to one day create a touring chamber ensemble to fund mathematics education for children of color in the United States, Africa and other regions.

Njeri began her musical studies at four years old on piano, winning 1st place in a statewide competition at eight years old. Piano lessons soon became unaffordable, but her love for music continued to blossom. Njeri has consistently earned high honors at the NEC Preparatory School though Project STEP, a string training scholarship program for African-American and Latino students. In addition to successfully balancing life in a single-parent household, academic commitments and artistic interests, Njeri has also dedicated herself to more than 250 volunteer hours since elementary school. She has loved tutoring students in music theory and performing chamber music for underserved audiences at nursing homes and youth events. She also has performed in numerous benefit concerts to raise money to help other young musicians.

Njeri is thrilled to have been among a group of NEC prep students selected to perform with Yo-Yo Ma during Gov. Deval Patrick’s inauguration celebration, an outreach soloist with Boston’s Landmarks Orchestra and a performer with members of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas at a Harvard University symposium. She has also performed with acclaimed oboist Peggy Pearson of Winsor Music, Tanglewood’s Young Artists Orchestra, and with her brother and sister in the Mahewa Family String Trio. She is a member of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, a thriving new orchestra conducted by Maestro Benjamin Zander. In 2012, Njeri was named future director of the Winsor Music nonprofit, a scholarship and outreach program for promising, underrepresented classical musicians.

Njeri is in her 7th year of French studies, has been awarded summa cum laude in the National Latin Exam, won a Latin Declamation Contest at school, completed an American Sign Language course and is enjoying learning bits and pieces of a variety of other languages. She is grateful for the six weeks she was able to spend studying in France on scholarship, earning a best student award. Njeri is also a classical Indian dancer.

Njeri has taken her interests into the science lab, inspired by her great-grandmother’s facility at recalling hymns despite few other memories. She has been researching the impact certain techniques of musical ear training on brainstem plasticity. Njeri looks forward studying languages, applied mathematics and neuroscience in college.

Njeri credits her mother for holding on after her parents divorced and her father moved away. She cherishes her mother’s unwavering efforts to help her children focus on the positive and strive for excellence. Njeri is extremely grateful to family and friends who have provided shelter, kindness and encouragement and who have paved the way for her and her family.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Ollie Howie

Ollie Howie

Hometown: Roanoke, VA

high school: William Fleming

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Economics

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ollie Monroe Bowman Howie is an intrepid, tenacious, conscientious and well-rounded scholar. He has claimed residency in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Virginia. In each of these states he has excelled as an honor student and community servant. Roanoke’s Superintendent of Schools calls Ollie a “district legend” and adds, “without question he is the most impressive student the district has had the pleasure of educating.”

In grades six, ten and eleven, Ollie was voted “best all-around student” and “student of the year”. He was inducted to the National Junior Honor Society and the National Honor Society. He is currently number two in his senior class (of 305 students); with a grade point average of 4.4, he is working hard to be the valedictorian at the May graduation exercises.

Ollie has distinguished himself as a community servant. In 2001, he founded the “My Brothers’ Keeper” (MBK) Club, which implements programs to help those in need. After Hurricane Katrina, MBK distribute natural therapeutics to those who had no access to their prescription medications. MBK distributes school supplies, socks and clothing to those in need as. In addition to his work with his club, he has served as a Youth Leadership Council (YLC) Member with the Foundation for Roanoke Valley. As a YLC member for two years, Ollie works with other young philanthropists to study and select non-profit organizations for grants. The YLC also hosts parties at local nursing homes and other charity functions. Independently, Ollie has volunteered for the American Red Cross Blood Drive, Special Olympics and has served in his church most of his life.

Ollie has served in numerous ministries in the church. He has served as junior church clerk; assistant superintendent of Sunday school; church school clerk; usher; choir member and assistant director of the Christmas play.

Ollie began speaking publically at a young age. His first public address was a speech at a kindergarten graduation when he was three years old. He has spoken at several church youth day events. In 2012 and 2013, he presented Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech at the annual SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) program.

In 2013, Ollie received the United States President’s Community Service Award, with a personal letter from President Obama. Consequently, he was featured on several local (Roanoke, Virginia) television news shows and in local newspapers. In addition to his award from the president, Ollie also received the Prudential “Spirit of Community” community service award.

In addition to his academic success and community service, Ollie has excelled in sports and music. He has played sports all of his life; in high school he played varsity golf and varsity baseball. He is also a member of the scholastic bowl team, FCA (Federation of Christian Athletes) and the varsity forensics team. He won regional and district awards for public speaking and sports marketing presentations in DECA and forensics.

Ollie played drums (percussion) and the alto saxophone in middle school. For the past two years he has been studying classical piano. He is also a print model for Prestige Photography. He enjoys listening to preachers, playing video games, working out and eating seafood. He currently resides in Roanoke, Virginia and will attend Harvard University in the fall.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Tafari John-King

Tafari John-King

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

high school: Medgar Evers College Prepatory School

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Government

Brooklyn native, Tafari John-King was born to Trinidadian immigrant Carl King and Guyanese immigrant Paula John. His parents have both instilled in him a hardworker’s attitude and made sure he understood the value of education. At a young age, John-King’s parent’s split up causing him to live with only his father. His father was oftentimes busy with work and he learned how to be independent with his studies. Witnessing his parents work as hard as they have to provide for him, John-King knew it was expected of him to get an education and not become influenced by the negative activities he witnessed so many other young men in his neighborhood face. From a young age, John-King’s father has instilled in him a sense of giving to others. Most notably, his father played a major role in releasing his friend from jail who had been incarcerated wrongfully for 21 years. When John-King got to high school he knew he wanted to get involved in service from seeing his dad’s actions but didn’t know in what capacity.

John-King began to step into leadership positions after joining a program sponsored by JP Morgan Chase called The Fellowship Initiative. In that program he made 22 brothers who he’s done a range of leadership activities with. The summer after his freshman year, John-King attended a 3-week business camp at Columbia University, which gave him his first exposure to the business world and a hunger to work as hard as he could to be as successful as the executives he met. He’s also traveled to South Africa in the summer of 2012 with The Fellowship Initiative for a leadership and social entrepreneurship program at the African Leadership Academy, which allowed him to learn invaluable skills that he has used in Senior Year.

John-King has been involved in a variety of leadership activities after joining The Fellowship Initiative. He’s been Grade Representative in 10th and 11th grade and is current school president. He was in charge of scholarship in the National Honor Society in 10th and 11th grade as well. There he tutored fellow peers in his high school and became a mentor to a few. In 11th grade John-King became involved in a non-profit called Pencils of Promise, which seeks to enhance primary education for children in some developing nations. Although he’s given service in many ways he still felt like he hadn’t contributed enough to his community. In the summer of 2012, John-King was a Bezos Scholar and attended the Aspen Ideas Festival. There he was inspired to start a local community organization Project GreenUP, which promotes healthier eating and cleaning up Crown Heights. Since the beginning of the year Project GreenUP has already done a few cleanups, Hurricane Sandy Relief and is even about to hold its first festival for students and adults to hear from “green” speakers.

John-King enjoys public speaking opportunities and landed a huge role as a TEDYouth Host in November 2012. He hopes to have more public speaking opportunities like this in college. He will attend Harvard University where he wants to study Economics and Computer Science to one day begin his own technology company. Although he’s open to changes in some of his plans, the one thing that will always remain constant is the unconditional service he gives to others.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Azeezat Adeleke

Azeezat Adeleke

Hometown: Waldorf, MD

high school: North Point High School

college: Yale University

MAJOR: Political Science

Azeezat Adeleke was born in Washington, D.C. to parents who made their way to the United States from Nigeria in order to build a better life for themselves and their children. Like so many immigrants before them, they came in hot pursuit of that icon of history, that mythical ideal: the American Dream. Undoubtedly, that pursuit has not always been easy. There have been bumps in the road, unexpected detours, and moments of uncertainty. But regardless of her parent’s struggles to secure a stake in the American middle class, Azeezat has always had one goal in mind: making good on the opportunity to catch a piece of the American Dream and hold on to it.

Taking advantage of the power of an American education, something so many students take for granted, has always been of paramount importance to Azeezat. She holds a 4.6 weighted G.P.A. and a 4.0 un-weighted G.P.A., ranking her third in a graduating class of 563. By the end of high school, Azeezat will have completed twelve Advanced Placement classes. She has earned numerous distinctions, including being named a National Achievement Scholar and an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction. In 2012, Azeezat was one of sixty-four students selected from a pool of 1,300 to participate in the prestigious Telluride Association Summer Program scholarship, studying literature and ethics at Cornell University.

In order to ensure that education remains a tool of empowerment and equality, Azeezat has been involved in student government for years. She currently serves at the Student Member of the Board of Education in her home, Charles County, Maryland. This position allows Azeezat to represent the voices of thousands of students and play a part in the policy decisions that will affect their lives. Over the years, student government has allowed Azeezat to testify before lawmakers, speak to the directors of charitable organizations, raise thousands of dollars for non-profits, and of course, help everyday students like herself.

Having grown up in the shadow of Washington, with its grand political history and ever-changing political future, Azeezat has been drawn to studying public policy. After winning government-funded scholarships to study abroad in Turkey and South Korea, Azeezat saw the tangible impact of American diplomacy in far-flung corners of the globe. As a result, after attending Yale University, Azeezat hopes to become a foreign policy decision maker. In this way, she can help protect the status of the American Dream the world over, giving more immigrant families the chance to pursue it and give their children better opportunities.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

David Daniel

David Daniel

Hometown: Independence, MO

high school: William Chrisman High School

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Anthropology

David Daniel is a distinguished scholar. As a National Achievement Outstanding Participant in the top one percent of his class at William Chrisman High School in Independence, Missouri he is a seasoned student. More than a scholar, David is a respectable individual who has worked relentlessly to partake of what he refers to as “milk and honey.”

David was born into third-world conditions in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria. Now an American, his insight as an immigrant has given him a unique and undying appreciation for the United States. This appreciation has fueled his desire to capture and exploit all opportunities and resources within his reach. Consequently, this desire has inspired actions that have allowed David to become a Duke TIP Scholar since 2009, a 2012 Wendy’s High School Heisman Winner, and a charismatic student who seeks to impart his knowledge to his peers.

Of the five children in the Daniel family David is the second oldest. On numerous, and prolonged, occasions it has been necessary for him to be the interim man of the house. Changing his sister Grace’s diapers, assisting his grandmother with various tasks, and runs to the grocery store have effectively developed David into a mature youth and borne in him almost sage-like wisdom. Perhaps the only aspect of David’s character that is remotely childlike is the fact that he still loves to run and jump. He has channeled this nostalgia for recess into a track career highlighted by conference championships, sectional and state qualifying performances and many medals won in long jump, triple jump and sprint relays. David strives to share his athletic passion in the same way that he strives to share his academic savvy. He is a volunteer referee for Upward Sports League and officiates children’s’ basketball games.

Helping young athletes is only one of the ways that David serves his community. Since 2009 he has been an Independence Youth Court Defense Attorney, representing juveniles charged with offences such as shoplifting and disorderly conduct. He is also currently a Youth Court Judge and presides over arraignments and trials and uses this position to help his peers understand that there are respectable alternatives to unlawful behavior.

College education is the next step for David Daniel. David will attend Harvard University to pursue studies in healthcare or business fields which will allow him to achieve tangible results and become an individual who contributes to the great value of America which makes it a country to be appreciated.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Matthew Wood

Matthew Wood

Hometown: San Deigo, CA

high school: University City High School

college: Brown University

MAJOR: Public Health and Portuguese

Infused with African and Latvian blood, Matthew was born is San Diego, California.

With a single mother being his only provider, Matthew learned quickly not to take anything for granted. But because he had fewer resources at his disposal, he sustained an inner hunger to seize as many opportunities as possible. As the years progressed, he learned that he had several differences in comparison to his peers. Some were more visible like his mixed hair, but others went unnoticed, like his strange color vision or his family’s economic standing. But these traits that were once unwanted and despised, later proved to make his perspective and ambition even more unique.

Regardless of where he was, Matthew always had the support and knowledge of a tight knit family. So even when his family encountered problems like substance abuse and depression, he learned the value of communication and forgiveness, and could always rely on them during tough times. This deep connection made him wonder how his father could be so content with being out of the picture, but also gave him a drive to support others in need.

This drive motivated him to pursue many activities, including athletics, the sciences, and community service. He competed in three different varsity sports, dabbled in research, and mentored other students to help with academics and goal setting. But his main passion was his curiosity for the unknown and the challenge of a new project. Matthew thrived when his peers and even his teachers said he could not do something. Barriers and stereotypes became his new opponents, and he was determined to conquer all in his path.

Matthew’s main source of enthusiasm stems from his unwavering positive attitude, and his strong belief in the rewards of hard work. With many negative options in his environment, it took a great amount of determination to blaze his own trail, and not follow into the numerous ways to stop his ambition. Whether it involved keeping his head in the books or moving across the country, he did whatever he could to increase his chances for success.

Following one of his biggest dreams, Matthew will continue his education at Brown University. He plans to study the exciting complexity of the human body and society’s influence on it. And optimistically, will apply this knowledge for further study, and become a health professional who changes the future of disease management and education.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars

Categories
People

Leslie Turner

Leslie Turner

Hometown: Columbus, OH

high school: Eastmoor Academy

college: Duke University

MAJOR: Cultural Anthropology

Leslie Turner has never let her circumstances dictate her future. At the tender age of five, Leslie’s father was incarcerated, leaving her to be raised by an uneducated, single-parent of four. Her mother never earned an income that would allow her family to live above the poverty line. To make matters worse, when Leslie’s father was eventually released after serving a twelve year prison sentence, he never sought a relationship with her as he had sporadically promised over the years. Leslie soon realized that due to her family’s lack of socioeconomic resources that she needed to work to provide for many of her needs and relieve her mother from the burden of the strong arms of poverty. It was two years ago that Leslie applied to Kingdom of Bounce and she is now a manager.

Leslie has always had a natural tendency for leadership and service to others. She has brought about change in her home by encouraging and supporting her mother’s decision to flee an abusive relationship. She also serves as a second parent to her younger sisters while her mother works long hours. Leslie’s leadership has extended well beyond her home to her involvement with her school and community.

One of Leslie’s most scholarly achievements was when she became president of The Principal’s Ladies Club, an elite organization of scholarly young women. As president of the Eastmoor Academy International Club, an Ohio Graduation Test tutor, and a school mentor, she has been able to inspire others and continually build her skills as a leader. Furthermore, Leslie is an avid volunteer vision screener at the Physician’s Free Clinic and a Youth Advisory Council member with the Columbus Medical Association Foundation. Leslie has also chaired two major service projects: “Give a Teen a Hug,” an event that collected hygiene products and winter apparel for homeless teens in Central Ohio and the “Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Orphanage Clothing Drive,” which collected clothes and shoes from students and faculty to send to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. On her own, Leslie created “Coloring Care for Kids,” which provides disadvantaged, homeless children with a series of activity books.

Aside from being an astute student with an unweighted 4.0 grade point average, this past summer she conducted research at the renowned Nationwide Children’s Hospital working as a research assistant on a project that created a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, Leslie is a Discus Awards Finalist, Carter G. Woodson Legacy Award recipient, The President’s Volunteer Service Award recipient, Columbus Rotary Service Above Self Award recipient, Ventures Scholar, and has received a plethora of accolades for her commitment to excellence.

Despite a tumultuous upbringing, Leslie has remained optimistic about her future. She plans to become a cardiologist and international philanthropist with “Doctors Without Borders.” Leslie’s appreciation for diversity has allowed her to become a more cultured individual. Leslie is an exemplar of not only one who beats the odds, but an example of what is possible when one decides to excel beyond what is expected.

Back to www.ronbrown.org Scholars