The Howard County Foundation for Black Educational and Cultural Achievement, Inc. is a community-based non-profit organization which has served as a resource for the encouragement and financial assistance to African-American youth in Howard County, Maryland for more than three decades. The primary focus of this organization is to provide scholarships to graduating, high school seniors in their pursuit of post-secondary education and training.
Concerned Parents for Educational Excellence
The outgrowth of a grassroots effort by sixteen concerned African-American parents who met initially on September 16, 1977 to contemplate ways in which to maximize the achievement efforts of black students in the county. This organization has evolved to its current status. These sixteen parents, along with two others who joined the group shortly after its inception, operated under the name of Concerned Parents for Educational Excellence (CPEE). They tackled the job of advocating for their children forthright. Overcoming many obstacles, such as the lack of operating funds, apathy, and differences of opinion as to their direction they persevered.
Creation of The Foundation & First group of scholars
Within the first couple of years following their initial meeting, this small group of determined parents sought 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service, investigated and accessed funding from a number of sources, established scholarship criteria (based upon scholastic achievement, extra-curricular activities and community involvement of the applicant) and changed their name, thus the establishment of The Howard County Foundation for Black Educational and Cultural Achievement, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as The Foundation) The first group of students was awarded scholarships by The Foundation in 1979 a crowning achievement! Each year since that time, with the exception of 1985 and 1986, when the organization took a hiatus, The Foundation has awarded college scholarships to qualified African-American high school graduates of Howard County.
Since its inception, the chief source of funding for The Foundation's scholarships has been the African-American community, in keeping with its original ideal as a self-help, grassroots organization. Solicitations were made from black families, individuals, businesses and other community organizations. A unique strategy was utilized in which a donor could become a Foundation member for the amount of $52 (based on the concept of $1 per week, per year). As the organization has evolved, the donor base has broadened considerably. At this point, funding is received from a variety of sources, including businesses, fraternities, sororities, churches and other organizations, both for profit and non-profit.
Scholarship Award Increase
For many years, the sum of $1,000 represented the basic scholarship award. Quite often a lottery drawing was utilized, thus embracing the element of fairness. Some years, the funding has been large enough to underwrite an award for each applicant, making the lottery unnecessary. In recent years, a book award has been instituted. This is given to each qualified applicant who does not receive a scholarship. In 2007, the amount of the basic scholarship award was increased to $1,500.
Achievements of Past Scholarship Recipients
In 2013, Board member, Mavis Polson Lewis, widow of President William "Bill" Lewis, authored a book which followed up on the achievements of some of the scholarship recipients. This was an unfulfilled dream of William "Bill" Lewis who served as the Foundation's President for 21 years, 18 consecutive. In 2013, his widow, Mavis, decided to fulfill his dream, she authored a book to get the student's perspective. The title of the book is: Our Story: A Collection of Inspirational Messages from Past Scholarship Recipients.
One Million Dollar Scholarships and Book Awards Milestone
In 2021, at the 41st Annual Scholarship Program via ZOOM, the Foundation celebrated a milestone by reaching One Million Dollars in awarding Scholarships and Book Awards to graduating African American High School seniors who reside in Howard County.
Whereas the scholarship program has been the principal activity of The Foundation, other areas have also been explored. Many of the alternative events have included a cultural aspect and also served as fundraisers. This category includes sponsoring trips to Broadway shows in New York, Book Fairs, a performance at Toby's Dinner Theatre, to name a few. Other significant activities are the college tours offered to students, most notably, the trips to Washington, Oberlin and Vanderbilt Universities for the period 1995-2002. (These trips were sponsored in conjunction with and were funded by Washington University). In addition, tours of black colleges were implemented by The Foundation in 1997, utilizing funds from a grant provided by Associated Black Charities (ABC).
The Howard County Foundation for Black Educational and Cultural Achievement, Inc. is immensely proud of the young people whom we have assisted in their pursuit of higher education. We also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the generosity of the individuals, families and various organizations who have contributed to our efforts. By pooling our resources, we hope to continue to generate more Dollars for Scholars for future generations of young people.