Ds Scholarship

‘I Graduated from College Virtually Debt Free. If I Can Do It, You Can Too.’

‘You look like a Morehouse man.’ I heard those words from my fifth-grade teacher—Mrs. Barbara Pulliam, and they still resonate with me nearly 30 years later.

After hearing her encouraging words, I knew college, specifically Morehouse College, was my destiny. I grew up in Augusta, Ga., son to a young mother who headed the household for several years. That made getting a job, working hard, and paying your bills the order of the day. Going to college was not first and foremost in conversations around the family dinner table with my mother and three siblings. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t discussed at all.

However, those words, ‘you look like a Morehouse man,’ convinced me to look in our family’s hand-me-down “World Book Encyclopedia” for this Morehouse. That same day, I set out to achieve my dream and the words of a prophetic elementary school teacher would cause her to one day attend my Morehouse graduation as well as the conferring of an honorary degree on me all prior to the age of 40.

There was no family college fund, no athletic scholarship, no savings, and still I applied to and was accepted by Morehouse. I promised my mother that I would not saddle the family with debt, especially because of a young sister and twin brothers, who needed everything the family had to offer.

By 30, I was free of student debt. My solution: scholarships. I applied for every scholarship I could find, including one offered by the United Negro College Fund, today known as “UNCF.” Remember the name, UNCF. It could be a game changer in life after college debt free or facing years of financial stress. I even wrote to every business my parents did business with and asked if they had funds for students attending college.

The local grocery store, the hometown bar-bq pit, our insurance agent, and of course my own church. I collected and cobbled those checks, large and small together to get enough to start my journey, but I had a balance—a 5-digit balance. That meant I had a loan.

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