Central New York Community Foundation Awards $100,000 Scholarship

June 28, 2008 (Syracuse, NY) – After seven years in the making, the Central New York Community Foundation presented its largest single scholarship award in its 81-year history by awarding $100,000 to graduating Fowler High School student, Aisha Gadson.

The Margaret J. Early Incentive Scholarship Fund was the brainchild of the late Dr. Margaret Early, a retired Central New York teacher and student text book editor. Seven years ago, she heard the story of Eugene Lang, a businessman who set up a very successful incentive scholarship at his disadvantaged secondary school in Harlem, NY. Having served in the education field her entire career, this story inspired Margaret to establish a similar motivation for local students in our community. “Not all of our youngsters hold the hope of going to college. The sooner we give them hope, the more their lives will be improved throughout their schooling,” she said.

In 2001, she set up the Early Incentive Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation. The sixth grade class at Shea Middle School was chosen because it was one of the neediest schools at the time. Staff at the Community Foundation helped to keep track of the eligible students through their schooling, providing them with personal encouragement, coordinating fun and educational events and reminding them of the scholarship opportunity annually. Peggy Ogden, Community Foundation President and CEO, guided Margaret’s idea as it was established and blossomed into what it is today. “This is a prime example of how just one person can make a difference when they have an idea and follow through with it. I am so glad that Margaret came to me to set up this fund many years ago. The Community Foundation is proud to have been a part of it,” says Ogden.

On June 28th, the six eligible students graduated from Fowler High School. Each student received some funding for post-secondary studies, and Aisha Gadson received $100,000 to pay for her college education. A complete list of the scholarships awarded from this fund follows. On the same day the scholarship was awarded, Dr. Margaret Early passed away in Gainesville, Florida. She was 84.

Margaret Early Incentive Scholarship Fund Award Winners

Aisha Gadson – $100,000
($50,000 for Undergrad, $50,000 for Graduate School) Boasting an 84.98 GPA and ranking 25th in her class, Aisha Gadson spent her high school career balancing her studies, including some college-level courses, playing in the band and being actively involved in several organizations. She is most proud of her participation in NSBE, the National Society of Black Engineers, for which she served as Treasurer this year. Aisha plans to attend RIT in the fall to study Biochemistry. Following her love of science, her plan is to enter into a career in genetics or forensics.

Benjamin Terry, Jr. – $9,300

Interested in how the sum of many minute details can form into a large and complex design project, Benjamin Terry is working to achieve his dream of becoming an architect. Ben plans to attend Onondaga Community College this fall to study Architecture. After receiving his Associates Degree, he would like to transfer to a 4-year school to continue his education.

Breanna Grant – $7,500

Ever since she was a young girl, Breanna Grant knew that she wanted to grow up to be a teacher. She loves helping others, especially children, and hopes that the values her mother has instilled in her – to be a spiritual, grounded and hard-working woman – will help her down her career path. Breanna plans to begin studying Childhood Education at SUNY Oswego this fall.

Pearlissa Reese – $4,600
Pearlissa Reese hopes to one day work in an urban, public school like Fowler High School so that she can spread the message that attending a public school can still lead to success. When not studying or playing on the softball team, Pearlissa spent her time volunteering in her community. She participated in the YESS (Youth Engaged in Services for Success) Program, which allowed her to help the children at a local homeless shelter. She plans to begin her anticipated six-year college education at Onondaga Community College, with a major in Early Education.

Nicole Givens – $3,000

Nicole Givens enjoyed her high school years by cheerleading for the football and basketball teams and volunteering at local elementary schools. During her senior year, she was also involved in DECA, an international association geared towards high school students interested in a career in business. Nicole plans to go on to study Business at Onondaga Community College.

Ameriliz Medina – $2,500
Ameriliz Medina has set ambitious personal goals to achieve in her academics and sports. On the honor roll and playing softball and tennis, Ameriliz also found time to volunteer at Vincent House. She would like to one day become a chef and own her own restaurant. Ameriliz plans to attend Paul Smith College this fall to study culinary arts.

The Central New York Community Foundation has served Onondaga and Madison Counties for over 80 years, receiving, managing and distributing charitable funds for the benefit of not-for-profit organizations. Grants are awarded for programs in the areas of human services, arts and culture, education, environment, health, economic development and civic affairs. The Community Foundation has over $110 million in assets and awards over $5 million in grants to not-for-profit organizations annually.

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