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Deacon William E. Johnson Sr. Memorial Scholarship

Funded by
user profile avatar
Martin Johnson
1st winner$534
2nd winner$533
3rd winner$533
Application Deadline
Apr 26, 2023
Winners Announced
May 26, 2023
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school senior or undergraduate student
Financial Status:

Deacon William E. Johnson Sr. was a man who always emphasized the importance of a good education. He wasn't afforded the opportunity to earn a higher education but he wanted all his children and other young people to achieve higher education to compete and be productive in society.

For many, college feels out of reach due to the high price tag of tuition, housing, books, and other course-related expenses. As a result, the student debt crisis has reached record highs, with millions of Americans owing $1.7 trillion in student debt.

This scholarship seeks to provide tuition assistance to a minority high school senior or undergraduate student in Illinois.   

Any BIPOC high school senior or undergraduate student in Illinois who is low-income may apply for this scholarship. 

To apply, tell us about someone who has impacted your education journey and how you hope to help your community in the future.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published December 5, 2022
Essay Topic

Please tell us about someone in your life or community that has had an impact on your educational journey and how you plan to give back to your community in the future.

400–600 words

Winners and Finalists

May 2023

Axel Sostre
Jennifer Dezil
Jordin Burchett
Taniya Teamer
Makayla Grison
Chikita Garmon
Olivia Russell
Jay More
Julia Tran
Nyree McCollum
Aria Fifer
Calina Jones
Sheikess Johnson Bey
Kindraya Britt
Cameron Ashley
Sandra Delgado
Rodney White
Henry Rodriguez
Noura Coleman
Ny Leonard

May 2022

Maurice Oldham
Jordan Williams
Ellie Pahl
Teja Taylor
ariana bennett
Marianna Mickey
Joshua Bell
Harshit Sharma
Citlali Rizo
Bolu Fasogbon
Josiah Olden
Karon Kincaid
Tajuan Pickett-Pinex Pickett-Pinex
Kaniya Cooper

Winning Applications

Tyler Tharpe
Ohio State University-Main CampusChicago, IL
My late mother had “20/20 foresight,” to quote her. She believed at any opportunity, she saw ten steps ahead. She’s proven right with her exceptional decision to gift me proper social-emotional practices. She acknowledged emotional intellect is invaluable for a black man, especially after seeing the downfall of black men around her due to their blatant lack of it. A mix of stressors that come with being an African American man - combined with the taboo nature of emotions and mental health, which is not exclusive to the African American diaspora, but all African diaspora, results in a lack of emotional intelligence, which often leads African American men into unfavorable situations. Additionally, through centuries of misinformation and stereotyping, melanin has become a measure of aggression. So for a dark skin African American, the difference between going home in his car or a hurse is simply being able to keep their emotions in check. As a community, we’ve built up copious amounts of generational trauma mainly due to outdated and misogynistic emotional practices. In Chicago specifically, discrimination and redlining have resulted in a myriad of socio-economic issues, but the most glaring, in my opinion, is education. I was blessed enough to attend a magnet school in a gifted program for elementary school. In that program, we were offered social-emotional learning classes, SEL for short. However, at schools in neighborhoods like North Lawndale, Englewood, or Chatham, SEL classes aren’t a concept. For my classmates and me, a woman would come in every Thursday, give us worksheets, and help us with social and relationship skills. Though it would consist of a simple lesson palatable for fourth graders, seeing “treat others how you want to be treated” practiced instead of being said with no follow-through is a world of difference. Simple sayings that are extremely common to hear in a black household, like “Do as a say, not as a do,” can be a detriment to emotional intellect. And a class with someone you can view as a role model who practices what they preach can remedy the bad habits built at home. With influence from my mother, who was a therapist, I decided to major in psychology and later earn a doctorate in behavioral psychology to share her “20/20 foresight” with other young black men. With additional influence from my experiences in that SEL class, I decided integrating courses aimed at teaching children in underprivileged neighborhoods social-emotional skills into the public school curriculum is a must. In the black community, we constantly utilize short-term and often harmful emotional practices. It’s like covering a piercing wound with a bandaid. This ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality we approach emotions has to stop. We have to start with our youth; they’re the most impressionable and will be in charge one day. If we can create a population of African American youth who understand their emotions, we can create a generation of people who become more successful and contribute more to society. But it all starts with “20/20 foresight’.
Lawrence Nalls
Morehouse CollegeChicago, IL
My grandfather, Lawrence Nalls, Sr. has had a major impact on my educational journey. He was born in 1946 and grew up in the housing projects on the south side of Chicago, with his parents and four brothers. He graduated from high school and due to his parents’ limited income and resources, he was unable to attend college. Therefore, after high school, he had to start working. He always had a dream of going to college, unfortunately, it never happened. At the age of 20, because of his love for “Our Country”, he decided to enlist in the United States Army; and he was on his way to fight in the Vietnam War. He was only in Vietnam for eight months, when he sustained life-threatening injuries. With injuries to the entire left side of his body; face, arms, legs, and back, he was not expected to survive and if he survived, he would not live to see the age of 40. Fast forward 56 years later, he’s still here mentoring and guiding me. Although my grandfather has received numerous awards and medals, including The Purple Heart, Presidential Citation, Air-Assault Medal, Airborne Jump Wings, and Veteran Service Medals, he still believes his greatest accomplishment would have been graduating from college. This is why he encourages, supports, and pushes me in all my educational and life endeavors. This is also what drives me to be a responsible, respectable, goal-setting, and hard-working individual. I am honored to be named after my grandfather, and I will attend and graduate from college to show him the impact that he’s had on my life and educational journey. Growing up in the inner city of Chicago, I have seen the impact of educational disparities, and generational poverty, witnessed trauma, witnessed the deaths of far too many youths my age and younger; as well as the egregious crimes committed by juveniles. I have spent countless hours listening to my friends as they share deep secrets and intimate thoughts. The uprise in suicides among teens and young adults is an indication of the need for mental health services. Having a younger brother diagnosed with Down Syndrome has allowed me the opportunity to see why advocacy is needed in society. These are some of the things that have inspired me to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology and then continue my education to become a licensed clinical psychologist. After college my immediate goal is to return to my community and provide trauma-sensitive counseling to youth and families; ultimately, opening a Christian-based youth center. My youth center will provide youth with a safe space and place to go. The center will also provide advocacy, mentoring, tutoring, counseling, sports, and other character-building activities. It will also have a healthcare component that will provide dietary and mental health services. My life goal is to always be kind, honest, and a productive member of society, never forget my humble beginnings and always give back. I will give back to my community by continuing to serve. Some of my current community services include volunteering to feed the homeless, volunteering at a senior citizen’s facility, and mentoring and tutoring younger students. I also volunteer with the Special Olympics, which is dearest to my heart. I vow to continue to provide service to those in need, and I will make a difference in the world by advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves. In conclusion, I strongly believe that to whom much is given, much is required.
Amani King
University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago, IL
Jeremy Hall
Morehouse CollegeChicago, IL
Someone in my life who has impacted my educational journey is my grandfather. Throughout his time here, I found my passion, learned the importance of assisting others (showing appreciation), and set out goals to help the Black American community further. I nursed my grandfather for seven years once he began digressing from various medical conditions and diseases. Thus, my family and I woke up at six a.m. every day to arrive at my grandmother's house to assist my grandfather in getting ready in the morning for his dialysis or doctor's appointment; before school every day. Since his passing, I have reflected on many situations. In cases where he was not given his medication on time/the correct amount, left unclean sitting in his bed at rehabilitation centers, and not making his last few moments on earth to his pleasure. Watching these actions and being around the medical terminology world has empowered me to become an Endocrinologist specializing in Diabetic/Thyroid diseases. As a physician (along with staff members), your responsibility is to serve individuals and communities with unmatched hospitality with unremarkable actions that will change one's life. Doing so gives the family comfort, knowing that the physician and staff members assisted them to the best of their ability. For example, for every patient I treat, I will do everything never to let any family experience what mine did; I will approach each medical diagnosis from a medical perception and a holistic view. Accommodating others' needs and seeing the smile on their faces afterward is my satisfaction, my calling. Occasionally, when I would arrive at school in the morning, I would be exhausted, sometimes even five-ten minutes late—so exhausted that I felt fatigued and couldn't preserve throughout the day. But, then realized it could be worse. Additionally, considering my grandfather endured three strokes, Alzheimer's disease, Dementia, Stomach Cancer, and double leg amputation, and still lives life to his full potential. In that case, I can not complain over something minor. Furthermore, I learned the importance of assisting others (showing appreciation). Giving back is essential because you can never be successful without acknowledging the individuals who helped you along your path, the importance of sacrificing, having a support system, and giving back (showing appreciation). Take a moment to think about the last time you gave back to others or your community. Whether that is giving back to the homeless, providing knowledge to the younger generation, creating scholarships for students, or helping your elderly neighbor. Being a part of something bigger than myself while valuing others and personal accomplishments/goals is incredible. Throughout my life, no matter the encounter with others, positive or negative, they all assisted me in growing into a better and more understanding individual. Additionally, whenever I can offer my help or assistance is not needed, I help anyway because you never know when people need help; they may be too nervous to ask. You have not truly lived life until you help someone who can never repay you. Throughout my educational journey, I plan on giving back to the community within my career. Therefore, I will provide each patient I treat an informational session on the following categories: What are Alzheimer's disease and Dementia? What/How can you avoid them? Is it possible to obtain Alzheimer's disease and Dementia even if you are mentally and socially engaged? By doing this, I can also educate my patients on various topics, benefiting them in the future. For example, one of my goals is to decrease the percentage of black Americans with diabetes. Doing so will help many people, helping them to get back healthy.
Wynona Lam
DePaul UniversityCarol Stream, IL
Kenwood Academy High SchoolChicago, IL
My powerhouse, passionate, and petite mother, always made her presence felt. At 5'2, 130 lbs, I thought she could move mountains. As a single parent on the Southside of Chicago, she made sure that I was clear on her academic expectations. I went to gifted schools, and remained focused. She reminded me of how her brother was murdered at her door step on 66th and Michigan. She was defiant in her position that we - as a family- will live out his life. Thus, the journey began. At fourteen I was introduced to a reality that has left an indelible impact on my life, and future. My father had a stroke, and six days later my mom was hospitalized. My seemingly invincible mom has Lupus, seizures, and other health issues. One day they worsened, and she collapsed into my arms. I had to drag her through the snow towards our home, while screaming for help. I was in a daze. I heard her teeth clicking during her seizure, and Nana demanded that the paramedics let her ride in the ambulance. Sadly, I realized both of my parents were now hospitalized. My world as I knew it was changing. Four days later, my family found out my scoliosis curve required surgery. The spinal fusion surgery meant they were going to cut my spine in its entirety...from my neck area, to the hip. They would then replace that part of my spine with a steel rod. I was homebound for the entire summer recuperating. I thought my life could not get any worse, but I was mistaken. Immediately after returning to school in the fall, I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression, and anxiety. I had to decide what my destiny would become. What my academic, social, mental, and emotional story would say about me. I decided to rewrite my story. The worst 12 months of my life gave me the tools to meet challenges “head on." My mother made sure my high school stayed on top of my mental health challenges, and Chicago Public Schools provided resources. When I had my mental health episodes, my mom was at my side. She stood fast, and strong. My mom refuse to leave me, make excuses for me, and dared anyone to even look in my direct with disdain. Even through my pain, I knew my mom always had my back. Her passion motivated me. I continued to end each semester with more A’s, and B’s. I realized that we all face challenges in our lives, which are oftentimes out of our control. We have to decide how we will allow it to impact us. Whether or not we will keep moving forward. My experiences can encourage others to keep going. To strive to develop strength of character, and embrace their tenacity. I can encourage them by sharing my struggles, and reminding them that they can blaze a trail, survive, and thrive. Mental health in my community has been rearing its ugly head amongst my peers. It is quickly becoming a silent killer. Look on social media, and you will see how many teens are suffering from mental health issues. Many feel they are alone, and the end result can become devastating. I will study Animal Sciences, and Psychology in college. My dream is to create a support pet style of therapy. We can thereafter nurture the unique relationship between humans, and animals. This can stimulate the healing process, and encourage clients to open up. In essence, to be true to ourselves as we fight the war against depression/mental illnesses.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Apr 26, 2023. Winners will be announced on May 26, 2023.

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