An anonymous donor is paying the college tuition of Black athletes who earn straight A’s while attending a high school in metropolitan Atlanta. The generous community member, aware of the lack of diversity when it comes to awards of a scholarship for athletes at Centennial High School in Roswell, Georgia, reached out to the athletic department expressing concern about the program’s requirement that student athletes must maintain a grade point average above 90. The donor, who started the scholarship three years ago, wishes to keep his identity a secret.
Jeff Burch, the school’s athletic director, said the donor pledged to give $1 million a year. “If the kids earn it, he wants to give it,” Burch said. The philanthropist will continue to give up to $1 million each year.
According to Burch, a photo tweeted by an account associated with the school showed that of the 16 scholar athletes invited to a banquet, all but one was white. “Our football team does not look like that, our team is predominately African American, he told CNN. “That needs to change.”
The donor aimed to find a way to encourage Black athletes to focus on their studies as much as they focused on sports. For each semester of straight A’s a student gets, the student receives about one semester of paid college tuition. Each semester of straight A’s is worth $25,000. An incoming freshman could receive up to $200,000 in tuition after four years.
“It’s a life-changer,” Burch said. “The financial gift is obviously unbelievable, but the dedication, work ethic, and study habits it takes to get that 90 is going to serve them so well moving forward and preparing them for life after high school,” he said. he initially figured the philanthropists’ gift would be something like iPads, TVs, or paying football fees.
In total, five students have received the Centennial High School African American Football Scholar Athlete Scholarship.
“Money talks,” said recent graduate Evan Walker. “Money can really change the way you view life.” He is currently deciding between studying pre-law at Purdue University or civil engineering at Georgia Southern University. He will receive three semesters paid on his behalf.
Jordan Barbas told “CBS Evening News” he wouldn’t have been an A student without the scholarship. “I was like, it’s real?” he said.
“It really has the potential to spark generational change for those students as they have their own families and kids,” Burch said of the scholarship.
Walker offered words of wisdom to young people working toward their academic goals.
“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,” he said.