Over the last 10 years, radio personality Tom Joyner and his foundation have raised more than $55 million dollars, and all of the proceeds have been dedicated to helping students start and finish their educations at historically Black colleges and universities.
At a time when pundits are continually questioning the relevance of HBCUs, Joyner feels compelled to reassert their significance.
“We need Black colleges now more than ever. With the war on affirmative action, mainstream institutions, they are not accepting our students. We’re committed to keep Black colleges open,” said Joyner, a Tuskegee University graduate whose two sets of grandparents attended HBCU as did his two sons.
“HBCUs are part of my DNA,” Joyner said of his fervor for HBCUs.
When the Tom Joyner Foundation started in 1998 the vision and the expectation for the project was narrow, says Tom Joyner Jr., president and CEO of the foundation. “The program began as a feature to the morning show. We decided to capitalize on it, and use it as an opportunity to contribute money to HBCUs.”
Each month the foundation designates a different HBCU to receive its support. The scholarship money is sent directly to the institution for the students. Scholarships are awarded to the students based on financial need and other requirements from the school and the donor. Once the scholars are named by the school, the foundation sends the money directly to the HBCU in the student’s name so that the funds go directly to helping to pay his/her tuition costs.
As an added bonus, Joyner interviews the president of every “School of the Month” during his morning show, which boasts eight million listeners in more than 115 radio markets, to discuss current projects and upcoming events.
Grambling State University was chosen as the TJF’s School of the Month for August. “We are very excited about this opportunity. We will encourage our graduates and supporters across the country to support the university through this process as we work to meet our [$500,000 fundraising] goal,” remarked President Horace A. Judson.
Amplifying the Impact
Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Cruise is the foundation’s most lucrative fundraiser. Now in its ninth year, the cruise continues to raise $1 million annually. “There’s no cruise like this on earth,” said Joyner. “Our fans will have the time of their lives and will be partying with a purpose. The more people sail with us, the more kids will be going to college.”
Last year, the TJF amplified the impact of its scholarships by introducing the full-ride scholarship. With its full-ride initiative, the foundation selects a high-achieving minority student and funds his/her tuition, room and board expenses for four years.
Britney Wilson, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was the scholarship’s first recipient. A middle class student, Wilson knew that she would fall into the middle category of financial aid: too poor to pay her expenses out-of-pocket, yet too rich to qualify for need-based scholarships.
“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford my college education, so I started my scholarship search early. I found the Tom Joyner scholarship online and applied,” says Wilson, a first-year student at Howard University.
Wilson will not have to work to finance her college education. For her, that is a relief, since she also suffers from cerebral palsy.
“Money is the main reason people do not complete their college education or start their education,” says Wilson. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without assistance. The stress that is alleviated knowing that your education is paid for is indescribable.” She plans to pursue a career in politics.
Working closely with HBCUs, Joyner and company have helped hundreds of students like Wilson work to achieve their dreams.
“We help students with continuing education at historically Black colleges. That’s our charter. It’s what we do,” said Joyner, the nationally syndicated media personality.
As part of a special initiative to increase the number of Black males attending HBCUs, last year, the foundation began offering one $1,500 scholarship each week to a male student at a HBCU.
Over the years the foundation has garnered a bulk of corporate support from ExxonMobil, Budweiser, DaimlerChrysler and Denny’s.
Through a partnership kicked off in January, TJF and Denny’s have awarded more than $40,000 to 27 single-parent scholars attending Black colleges as part of a yearlong effort to create new opportunities for the parents and their children. Winners of the Tom Joyner Foundation and Denny’s Single Parent Student Scholarship receive $1,500 grants toward their education. A new grant winner is awarded every week in 2008.
“Our partnership with Denny’s is something that really means a lot to me,” said Joyner, “We’re helping these students to stay in school and giving them a chance to pursue their dreams.”
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