Demetrius Mack Pay It Forward Memorial Scholarship

Funded by
Rhonita (Nita) Brown
Learn more about the Donor
2 winners, $625 each
Application Deadline
Oct 1, 2021
Winners Announced
Oct 31, 2021
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Eligibility Requirements
Live in Atlanta, Georgia
Live in Atlanta, Georgia

"I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me. Failure always made me try harder the next time.” – Michael Jordan

Giving back helps foster the spirit, growth, and resilience of all communities.

When you find ways to support your community, you contribute to the virtuous cycle of giving that helps individuals and the entire community grow stronger.

To honor the life of Demetrius Mack and to help current students who go above and beyond for their community, the Demetrius Mack Pay it Forward Memorial Scholarship exists and will be awarded to two high school or undergraduate students in Atlanta, GA.

To apply for this scholarship, please write about what “paying it forward” means to you, as well as writing about someone who has inspired you to give back to your community.

Community Service
Selection Criteria:
Essay, Community, Impact
Essay Topic

What does "paying it forward" mean to you? Tell us about someone who has helped you in your life and how you plan to give back to your community?

600–800 words

Winning Applications

Alah Huff
Maynard H. Jackson- Jr. High SchoolAtlanta, GA
What would you do if tomorrow you lost it all? Think about it. Have you ever contemplated that question? If not, you’re most likely leading a successful life or have not been in a predicament to make you feel the need to have to ask that question. Many do not attempt to put themselves in the position to even consider that question. No, it is not solely based on the inability to put yourself in someone’s shoes, however some become so high on life that it simply never crosses their mind. Yet, what people fail to realize is that just because you’re in a successful position currently does not mean you’re going to stay there. Since a young age I have been taught to help people in need. Not because I expected something in return but because the actions of assisting someone is from the goodness of my heart. It never was an issue for me to help someone because I was fortunate enough to always have somebody who was willing to help me. Not until I reached the first grade, that I became invested in philanthropy. One project changed my whole outlook on the welfare of others. Though I do not remember specifically what the prompt for the project was, I do remember vividly what I built. With help from my father, I created a house made of popsicle sticks that was inspired by Habitat for Humanity. Since Habitat for Humanity is an organization that improves housing environments, I was excited to present it to the class. I was always deemed as quiet (I’d like to call it observant) so once I finally got the opportunity to speak I ran with it. After awhile I stopped reading from the script and spoke on my own account to why I felt like it was important to help people in need. I went on for so long my teacher said she hated to cut me off, however we had to give the other students a turn. She pulled me to the side and expressed how proud she was of me for coming out of my shell. From that point on, I became dedicated to find ways to benefit the life of others. According to Google, pay it forward means “respond to a person's kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else”. But what happens when no one is kind to you? Does that obligate you to stop being kind to someone else? To me, paying something forward does not have to be in response to someone else’s kindness. If no one has displayed compassion to me, it is not going to change the way I treat people. Seeing how I can influence another life for the better is the goal. Not for the likes on social media or a pat on the back. In my life, my mother has inspired me to live life without seeking for an award. She was the one who taught me to do good even when no one is watching. It is not necessary to be recognized for every little good deed due to the fact that all attention is not good attention. Living by those words have driven me to want to improve my community. Not only from a local standpoint but on a wider scale as well. I hope to educate people on my views and push for everyone to strive to do good without looking for a congratulations. By doing so, I strongly believe this will improve the interconnectedness within the nation that it has been so desperately needing since the time of its “founding”. I want to tackle issues such as homelessness, racial injustice, and educational attainment (or lack thereof) in marginalized communities. I want to speak on behalf of underserved people because they deserve success just as much as the next person. Environments or financial status should not discourage somebody from pursuing what they want to do in life. I want to be able to find ways to prevent homelessness by finding housing spaces to get them off the streets. I also propose to develop extracurricular activities and/or programs for adolescents to keep them engaged and out of trouble. In the words of my mother, “remain humble because your life can change in an instant”. I believe everybody can learn something from these words. Not just because my mother is a smart woman but because it ties back to the phrase of “pay it forward”. Being humble does not always have to mean being unassertive, but being wise enough to put your pride aside. Doing so can enable you to help someone without trying to protect a certain “image”. Therefore, off of the strength of my integrity I will continue to assist people in anyway I can.
Gabriela Ortega
Spelman CollegeAtlanta, GA
My father taught me that life is much like learning how to ride a bicycle. I was confused as to why he would remove the training wheels, which were in place to help me keep my balance. I recall my father gripping the handle bar and leading me down the driveway for the last time. My father died of leukemia when I was thirteen, and my training wheels vanished in the blink of an eye. My father had been working on loosening them so I could learn to ride without them. My father's absence has had the deepest impact on my life. Grief has taught me to live with a deeper purpose by better serving those around me. Since I was thirteen, I have helped many individuals personally through their challenges throughout high school and college based on my personal experiences. Being able to relate to my peers has enabled me to assist them in overcoming depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, and to replace those negative emotions with joy, serenity, and hope. At Spelman College I met other young black women like me who needed to feel understood. The more I listened, the more I was inspired to study computer science to one day create the supportive atmosphere that individuals suffering from mental illnesses require by combining my technological skills with my passion for mental health care. Recently, my school decided to not allow the majority of upperclassmen to return to campus due to COVID-19 without the option of continuing our education virtually and leaving most of us homeless. I was denied housing five times this summer, and I am unable to secure my own apartment since my mother cannot be my guarantor due to a lack of finances. Although it is seven years after my fathers death, my mother and I still have to bear the consequences of living without his financial support. I've been suffering from extreme anxiety, hoping that I'll be able to return to school this semester with a place to live. Several times during my adolescence, I had to provide financial support for my mother and myself. I remember my mom coming to my room to tell me that she had no money left in her name. I had to use the little funds I had saved from working at Burger King to buy groceries. My father's passing pushed me to develop faster than I would have liked. Every day, I aim to do my best so that I may assist those who are in similar situations. This summer, I produced posters for a local church and organized their back-to-school celebration for neighborhood children to get free lunch, school supplies, and a backpack. Following the event, I received a phone call from the church's director notifying me that my posters had drawn over 105 children and 80 parents to the event. I shed tears of pleasure because I was able to assist over 105 children in returning to school this year with free school supplies, knowing that their parents would not have to bear that burden this year. Although I am now in a similar circumstance, attempting to return to school, I am grateful to be able to help others in need. I see myself being shaped into the person I wished I had around me when I was younger. Giving back to my community taught me that I don't have to be affluent to donate; all I need is the willingness to do so, and the impact will follow. I hope to achieve my long-term objective of one day developing an app that would bridge the gap between underserved communities receiving inexpensive and accessible mental health care treatment. Technology has the capacity to connect people who feel isolated in their difficulties, and it has assisted psychiatrists and mental health practitioners in detecting those who may be suffering from mental disorders and ensuring that they have access to simple and cost-effective therapy. Computer science appealed to me since I would be able to have a large-scale social contribution. If I am awarded the Demetrius Mack Pay It Forward Memorial Scholarship, it will allow me to further my studies in providing others with the instrument of support I once lost. I am currently focusing on improving my coding abilities and acquiring my Health and Life Coach certifications. Being nominated this year to represent Spelman College as a mental health advocate and being featured on a billboard for Georgia's Own Credit Union was the assurance I needed that I am on the right road toward creating the safe atmosphere for my community that I have desired for. I picture myself plummeting down a hill, tears in my eyes and the wind in my hair. My father's voice encourages me to continue pedaling. I'm soaring!


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Oct 1, 2021. Winners will be announced on Oct 31, 2021.

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