Tuskegee Airmen Offer Scholarships to Students Throughout LA County, and Honor the Work of LAEDC CEO, Bill Allen
The Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation hosts an annual awards ceremony providing scholarships up to $1,500 to high school students throughout the region, as well as honoring community leaders. This year’s event was held on September 30, 2017 at the Proud Bird Restaurant in Los Angeles. The 2017 theme, “Next-Gen Now” was sponsored by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Southern California Edison, with scholarships awarded to 40 students nationwide. The program was attended by several Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA), including Jerry Hodges a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor and former president of the Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation (TASF). Another DOTA, Theodore “Ted” Lumpkin serves on TASF’s board of directors and at 92 years old gives inspiration to youngsters with his quick-witted intelligence and eye for keeping the pipeline of next generation aviation professionals fully open and accessible. The program ended with an inspiring keynote by Robert Gilbert, Chief Development Officer with Los Angeles World Airports, and a heartwarming Tuskegee Airmen Medal Ceremony.
A Rich History
The Tuskegee Airmen Scholarship Foundation was formed in 1978 by a concerned and forward-thinking group of original Tuskegee Airmen. The Foundation was formed to provide opportunities for education and advancement to low-income students aspiring to a college education. The fund eventually reached $2.1 million, with a focus on careers in aviation, aerospace, and more recently STEM. Scholarship applicants are required to have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale, submit three letters of recommendation from academic sources, and write two essays – one about the impact of Tuskegee Airmen, and the other about their life’s journey.
The founders of TASF believed that meaningful higher education was important and that many talented young Americans could not attend college because they or their families could not afford tuition costs. Awarding scholarships was one way the Airmen could contribute to making a difference between marginal existences and living a fulfilling and productive life. “What the Tuskegee Airmen went through in World War II planted a seed to help motivate Americans attain economic growth and help children and their parents overcome obstacles in their way of achievement. This has always been their main priority”, said Sunnye Simpson, Vice President, Resource Development. Simpson grew up in a household headed by a Tuskegee Airman fighter pilot and one of the founders of the scholarship fund.
Paying It Forward
TASF offers scholarships nationwide, reaching girls, students of color, and those with aspirations of a career in aerospace and engineering, helping to offset the increasing costs of a college education. The LA region scholarship recipients include students from Flintridge Preparatory School, Notre Dame Academy, and Burbank High School. Two recipients, Amari and Bruce Dennis, are fraternal twins from Flintridge Preparatory School. Amari will attend Tufts University in the fall, majoring in business administration with entrepreneurial aspirations of opening her own business in costume design. Her brother, Bruce, will attend Boston University where he will participate in a world-class international business intensive in London, England. A national scholarship winner, Samuel Bidney, will be attending Westminster College to study aviation. “I have always wanted to be a pilot and it was easier for me to pursue my dream when I had the Tuskegee Airmen as role models” said Bidney. Bidney, an avid flight enthusiast was the captain of his high school lacrosse team and served as an outdoor counselor at his high school.
This year’s community leader awards were given to Bill Allen, CEO, Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), receiving the Corporate Leadership Award; Dr. Wanda Austin, former CEO of the Aerospace Corporation, receiving the Woman of the Year Award; and Lt. Gen. John Thompson, who received the Excellence in Military Leadership Award.
Check out photos from the event on Flickr.