Va. Church Awards $2,100,000 to HBCU Students

The historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria awarded the scholarships at its annual HBCU College Festival. 

The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, pastor at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., in January 2009
The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, pastor at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., in January 2009 Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., hosted its 14th annual HBCU College Festival last month and awarded students $2.1 million in scholarships through historically black colleges and universities.

The all-day event, held Feb. 20 at a local high school, attracted students from Virginia and nearby Washington, D.C., but also from as far away as Alabama, New York, Illinois and Florida. The event registered the largest turnout in its history, bringing together more than 3,000 students and members of their family as well as 320 volunteers.

Ryan Atkins, director of Alfred Street’s HBCU committee, told HBCU Buzz: “If you total up all the scholarships, the funds awarded exceeded over $2 million and … over 60 HBCUs from across the country came on site, and 42 of those granted students acceptance and money to pay for their higher education on the spot.”

More than 1,000 students were admitted to different colleges that day, and $41,000 was given in waivers for applications. Some students received full rides to HBCUs, including Hampton University, Virginia Union University and Norfolk State University, and more than 160 students received scholarships based on merit.

“Black youth are often stereotyped as uneducated, with no ambition or drive, but events like these dispute the perpetual stereotype of black youth time and time again, as nearly 5,000 youth registered online to attend our college festival,” said the Rev. Howard-John Wesley, pastor of Alfred Street. “We intentionally brought in colleges that were prepared to give away scholarships on the spot. This makes it convenient for students who otherwise may not have had help searching for college funds. We know how much this event means to our community as well as to these families, because we know that without this event, many couldn’t afford college.”

Alfred Street, founded in 1818, has long been a bastion of education for the black community. In the 1920s the church created the first high school curriculum for black students in the area. In the 1960s, HBCU Sunday was introduced to the congregation, where the president of the featured college was invited to speak during Sunday-morning services, and alumni of that particular school would proudly show up for worship in support of their alma mater. The bonus was a sizable donation given to that school as a show of support from the church. That evolved into the first HBCU College Festival in 2003. 

For information on the 2017 festival, contact the Alfred Street Baptist Church

Read more at HBCU Buzz.

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