CLEVELAND — At an event hosted Saturday at WKYC, five outstanding college-bound students received scholarships from the local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s oldest African-American men’s fraternity.

Veteran reporter and anchor Leon Bibb, who is an Alpha Phi Alpha member, gave the keynote address. He spoke words of inspiration to the young men and their families, telling the story of the day that his sixth-grade teacher, Robert Taylor, happened to take a little time after school to praise young Leon’s writing. “If I were you, I would think of becoming a writer,” Taylor told him.

Bibb said that decades later, at Taylor’s retirement party, he was invited to say a few words as a former student, so he explained that Taylor’s encouragement actually inspired him to enter journalism field at a time when there were few black role models.

“He took 10 seconds of his life to tell me what I could be. But those 10 seconds changed my life,” Bibb said.

Surprisingly Taylor didn’t even recall saying those words. And that’s exactly why it’s so critical to encourage young people to do their best and to reward them for their achievements, Bibb pointed out – you may not even realize the lasting impact.

Then, members of the fraternity’s Delta Alpha Lambda chapter read off the accomplishments of their five 2019 scholarship recipients:

  • Douglas Burnett III, a graduate of Willoughby South High School, will study political science and business at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
  • VanWayne Chaney Jr., who maintained a 4.0 GPA at Solon High School while playing football, track and wrestling, will attend Miami University.
  • Brush High School graduate William Hills has enrolled at Kent State University, where he will major in aerospace and minor in theatre arts and performance.
  • Kareem King, the valedictorian of Brush High School’s class of 2019, will study molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University.
  • Nasir al-Din H. Rashid, a Shaker Heights High School graduate, has been accepted at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and will play football there.

“These young men need to be recognized for their excellence in a world that underappreciates them for what they bring to the table,” said chapter Vice President Lester Holmes.

Alphas at WKYC
Members of the Cleveland Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha during their WKYC scholarship reception.
Richard Huckabee

Fraternity members also took time during the ceremony to impress upon the youngsters the importance of giving back. “With great talents and privileges comes an even greater responsibility, not only to you and your families, but to those who look like you and want to be in your position," Holmes said.

WKYC is the media sponsor for the fraternity’s annual scholarship fundraiser, the Black and Gold Derby Party, held at First Energy Stadium.