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CATALYSTS Scholarship

Funded by
2 winners, $1,000 each
Application Deadline
Jul 20, 2024
Winners Announced
Aug 20, 2024
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
Black/African American
2.8 or higher
Work or internship experience involving social change

The world of social activism is driven by the innovation of relentless and passionate people who work toward a mission of creating social change.

Everyone has the power to be a champion of change in their community, no matter how big or small it is. The purpose of the CATALYSTS (Cultivating Achievers To Actively Lead and Yield Strategic and Transformative Success) Scholarship is to provide financial support to student leaders of color who are active within the nonprofit ecosystem and/or development of high potential philanthropy that drives social change and impact. The goal is to better propel emerging community leaders to be catalysts of change in their community while still being able to remain involved in college life.

Black/African American undergraduate students are eligible to apply if they have a GPA of 2.8 or higher and have internship or work experience regarding social impact. To apply, write about how you work to make a positive impact on the world by focusing on specific social issues.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published February 23, 2024
Essay Topic

Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you are working to make a positive impact on the world, addressing an important social issue.

400–600 words

Winning Application

Michelle Morel Perez
Kennesaw State UniversityAtlanta, GA
"Can ghosts go to space?" my 5th-grade reading buddy asks me, confident that I, as a "big kid" will have the answer. His eyes gleamed out of his curiosity. Five minutes before, he asked if ghosts could eat. I grin wide and chuckle a little inside, but I was afraid I had no response other than "maybe" and "I hope so!" In high school, I volunteered to read with at-risk children -- most of whom were learning English as a second or third language. The 30-minute reading sessions with my reading buddies a few times a week were the highlight of my busy high school days. My buddy and I would scan through the selection of books, making sure to read only the books with topics that interested them. Each of my buddies loved learning and was extremely curious -- traits that I am sure will lead them down a successful path. I was grateful to have the chance to teach at-risk children and steadily watch as their reading levels increased every few sessions. I was proud of my reading buddies for reading through challenging books, asking great questions, and keeping an open mind throughout all the sessions. After volunteering to read with children with the organization Ebookbuddy, I have a different outlook on life. Seeing children light up when I tell them they're doing great, watching them persevere and keep trying even when they slip up on a few words, allowed me to step outside myself. I am now grateful to have been given the ultimate opportunity to help young, underprivileged children increase their reading and comprehension skills. As an ESOL student in elementary school myself, I needed someone to believe in me and take the extra time to help me understand concepts that other students had already mastered. Being a child of two immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, I could not rely on my parents to help me with schoolwork since all my assignments were in English. My ESOL teachers played a vital role in my development as a student, and I want to enrich the lives of children the way my teachers enriched my life. At-risk children often have more struggles and personal issues than meets the eye. Children that perform poorly in school or have limited reading abilities need someone who cares about their success to help them push forward despite their sometimes unpleasant circumstances. I plan to continue cultivating the love of learning and curiosity in at-risk children, building relationships with them, and showing them that I care about their success. I want to fill the role of mentor, tutor, and friend for children struggling academically. As such, I will continue to voluntarily tutor and read to kids, always aiming to instill confidence in them and show them that their opinions matter. In the future, I would like to start a nonprofit similar to Ebookbuddy, where volunteers read to children. Instead of focusing solely on reading, I want my program to encompass various subjects like math, science, and social studies. This way, children can get a more comprehensive tutoring session, getting help in all their classes if need be. I want to give back to the community by setting children from all walks of life up for success.
Xavier Doyle
Morehouse CollegeStonecrest, GA
I anticipate contributing to my community better one meal at a time. Besides a passion for theater and music, I love to cook. During the pandemic, cooking became more than a hobby. It was a way to relax and enjoy new delicious treats. Many of my friends are musical theatre kids, so we can crave attention and social interaction. But with a possible apocalyptic plague, we needed a new way to socialize. So I founded a monthly Zoom teen cooking club. Coincidently, I started volunteering at a drive-thru food pantry. The pantry received fresh vegetables and fruit from local farms but many clients did not have access to cooktops or ovens due to living in temporary housing or extended-stay hotels. So my cooking club started to demonstrate some cooking techniques using ingredients from the food pantry and a microwave or toaster oven. Since I served as the community service co-chair for the Student Government Association, I coordinated a monthly homeschool teen meetup to volunteer at the pantry. This school year I have served 62 verified hours fighting food insecurity and providing food dignity. I want to start a social media l movement called #fooddignity that removes the stigma of needing help. The pandemic has changed the face of poverty. Situations like underemployment, inflation, and rising rents. and illness has changed the face of poverty. The average food pantry client is employed but is unable to food for their family with their paycheck. These families may not qualify for food assistance and turn to food pantries to supplement meals. But too often those in need receive groceries from food pantries that are high in fat and sodium, lack nutritional value, or do not meet personal dietary or religious preferences. Food dignity is listening to the client and understanding their needs. I would be reaching out to food distributors with a healthy eating focus like Trader Joe, Whole Foods, and even local farmers and home/ civic group gardeners. Commercial and community support is vital to local food partners but the volunteer is the life's blood of service. I have also met many food pantry volunteers who were former clients. They are proud to be of service to others and have lived through struggle. As an actor, performer, and budding playwright, I am motivated to expand my knowledge and bring awareness to marginalized stories. For me it's simple, I like storytelling and will use it to impact the world. I plan to impact the world by captivating the audience's minds, enlarging their perspectives, and fostering empathy for the human experience. Lastly, local food pantries need financial support from donors. I committed to donating money now because large future sums are wonderful but sustained gifting is powerful. Sustaining donors could allow the food pantry to expand from a drive-thru pantry. A predictable income allows for the start of new and creative food insecurity initiatives that focus on different populations like veterans, medically fragile, seniors, or the homeless.
Jahmela Smith
Full Sail UniversityBrooklyn, NY
Hello, My name is Jahmela Smith and I am a 38 year old wife, mother of 4 and a first gengeration college student. I am striving to show my children that it's never to late to chase your dreams and leave a lasting impact on the world. I am extremely ambitions and I have been determined to help homeless families in need. I joined a local organization called Women in Need in New York city. They are dedicated to providing tranistional housing and other essential services to women and children experiencing homelessness. I've worked to create a plan of action over the past 5 years. I've reached out to community leaders and partners, I have advocated for policy change, and raised funds to help homeless families find permanent housing. I have been inspired by the progress I am making. I am determined to keep working and make a difference in the lives of those affected by homelessness. I will continue to advocate for policy change and raise awareness about the issue of homelessness. I am determined to make a positive impact on the world by doing so. I'd like to one day have my own non profit organization that trains homeless people to become independent and work in various industries or return to school. This will be giving homeless people the skills and employment they need to rebuild their lives. I recognize that creating positive social change and building together begins with a mindset and skillset that allows me to do so. This means being open to differences and embracing the ethics of reciprocity - treating others as they would like to be treated. By developing these qualities, I can build the trust and relationships needed to effectively address homelessness and poverty. Finally, it's crucial to understand the scale of the problem I am trying to solve. The world currently faces a range of challenges that impact the lives of families facing homelessness, including the COVID-19 pandemic, growing racism, displacement, and climate change. While the state of the world may seem bleak at first glance, it's important to remember that there are agents of positive change out there who are working hard to make a difference. Overall, by developing the mindset and skillset needed to build trust and relationships, and understanding the scale of the challenge, I can make a real and positive impact in the lives of families facing homelessness.
Lauren Black
Northwestern UniversityEllicott City, MD
My name is Lauren Black, I am a fourth year pre-health student and the founder of Sisters in the Wilderness, a startup nonprofit dedicated to rehabilitating survivors of sex trafficking. As a Human Development in Context major at Northwestern graduating in the Spring of 2023, I am applying to this scholarship in the hopes that it will allow me to fund my further education and support my goals of obtaining my MD/PhD. Having studied topics such as Bioethics, Education in the Global Economy, and Global Human Trafficking, I strive to develop modern implementations to public health that aim to advocate for disadvantaged and under-represented communities through social health, education, and virtue ethics. My skills and myriad of experiences will allow me to hit the ground running in public health research and social science education. While starting my undergraduate education through pre-medicine, I found myself gravitating towards the humanitarian side of healthcare and social sciences. This interest pushed me to venture into working at non-profit organizations, where I established a true passion for bioethics and law. For example, my time at the Salt and Light Coalition consisted of educating sex trafficking victims. My role re-inspired women that suffered from serious traumatic events; this process ended with a 100% student retention rate. Conversing with these people opened my eyes to public health support through bioethical concerns of autonomy and justice. My involvement at Salt and Light made light of the deficiency in women’s healthcare and public policy; this gap strived me to explore the role of public advocacy in healthcare, where my public speaking prowess can serve as a voice for under-represented communities. My work at a recovery center for victims of sex trafficking has made the global health issue of human trafficking one of the issues I am most passionate about. According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. Being from Baltimore, a city with a severe human trafficking problem, this reality is something that I encounter almost every single day. While the number of women and girls trafficked annually continues to rise, the number of successful prosecutions and liberated persons is stagnant. A report from the Global Enforcement Data 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report shows that roughly 9,000 individuals were prosecuted for trafficking offenses in 2013, and 10,000 were prosecuted in 2014. However, in both years, only 4,000 were ever brought to justice. These numbers are unacceptable in the face of upwards of 50,000 women who were identified as victims. Human trafficking has had negative effects on women and girls all over the globe.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Jul 20, 2024. Winners will be announced on Aug 20, 2024.