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To Build Tomorrow -- It Takes a Community

Students receive college financial aid from host of sources.

College costs encompass more than just tuition. And, it's those ancillary expenses that often spell the difference between achieving a college education or settling for something else.

That was the message last Thursday morning in the City Council Workroom when two young students received the additional financial support they needed from a variety of sources so they could follow their dreams. Today they are enrolled and situated at the colleges of their choice.

Under the aegis of the Northern Virginia Regional Fatherhood Coalition, Emmanuel Onwuzu and Rashad Price were each presented with checks to assist them in their expenses just hours before they left for Florida Memorial College in Miami and Ferrum College in southwestern Virginia respectively.

"This is all about opportunity. Hold onto your faith and don't give up. And, if you need help don't be afraid to ask," Mayor William D. Euille told the two youths after he presented each with a check for $500.

"People are doing this because they want to see you become somebody. There will be challenges, but now matter how far you go always remember how you got there and give back to the community," Euille said.

He was joined in his donation by a $200 gift from the Alexandria Kiwanis Club presented by Claude Mayo and $400 from Tomorrow's Black Men presented by Thomas Carpenter, president. "You two represent everything we have been doing over the last several years. We are happy to support you in your challenge," Carpenter said.

Organizing, not only the presentation ceremony but also the fund raising efforts for the two students, was Franklyn Malone, ombudsman for Community Safety and Family Outreach, Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He also serves as president of the Coalition which consists of 25 partnering churches, community groups, government agencies and private citizens.

"BOTH OF THESE young men are from public housing and they are an example of just what can be done. This was a true community effort to aid these two young men," Malone said.

He also acknowledged his gratitude to William Dearman, executive director, ARHA, "for caring about the plight of so many of our young African American males and allowing me to go outside our organization to other agencies and organizations to gather help for these two students with their last minute needs."

A 2005 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, Price, a native Alexandrian, has been mentored by Malone since he was 13 and a student at ARHA's Family Resource Leaning Center, then directed by Malone. "This guy had a plan from early on to be somebody," Malone said.

Raised by his grandmother, Agnes Nesbitt, Price, 18, played football for T.C.Williams and was recruited by Ferrum College to play on a football grant. He will study sports marketing and plans to work in the professional sports field. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime," he said.

Also an Alexandria native, Onwuzu, 19, completed high school in 2004 in Largo, Md., but returned to Alexandria to live with his mother, Jacqueline, in her apartment. That's when he began to seriously consider higher education.

"I've always wanted to be a graphic designer. Then I heard about this school from a friend who said it has a very good course in graphic design," he said. "When I graduate, I hope to get a job with a government agency or own a business."

He applied to Florida Memorial College and was accepted on a scholarship. However, he could not afford the $250 dormitory accommodation deposit. That's when his mother contacted Malone and he went to work with various members of the Coalition.

"I was working on Rashad's needs when Emmanuel's mother called and asked if I could also help him. I was moved to make this happen for these guys by removing these financial barriers," Malone said.

IF THERE WERE any trepidations flowing through the two students surrounded by their well wishers, Euille sought to put them a ease. "I've gone through what you have gone through. I was the first in my family to go to college," he said.

"I credit my ability to go to college to the people in this community. People helped me with all my expenses. It truly takes a community to help people like us to go to and through college," Euille said.

For Euille's support, not only to these two students but also for the many he has and continues to help and for his actions in helping to found and support the Coalition, Malone and others presented Euille with a certification of appreciation. In response he stated, "I'm honored to have you all here this morning for this program and I'm honored to participate in this program as mayor and as a citizen."

Each student received a total of $800 to assist in expenses for such basic items as towels, clothing and study lamps. However, it is all contingent on their achieving academic success to remain in college and follow their dreams.