The auditorium at one of Atlanta’s oldest high schools was filling fast with seniors, teachers, media and corporate employees. The unique mix of guests at Atlanta Public Schools Booker T. Washington High School was there to celebrate the final quarter for the soon-to-be graduates. What those students did not know was that there was a special surprise in store for them in the form of a $54,000 scholarship.

The Home Depot Foundation and the Westside Future Fund, a local nonprofit organization, will make it possible for all 180 seniors at Booker T. Washington High School to receive $300 each. The funds can go towards anything from senior dues to college application fees to a prom dress or suit. 

The application portal opens March 1 and seniors are asked to apply in order to receive their portion of the funds. When Dr. Erica Clark, a professional school counselor at Booker T. Washington High School asked the students in attendance if they were going to apply for the scholarship virtually every hand went up. 

“It’s important because it defers the cost that they might have,” said Clark of the aforementioned dues and fees that seniors amass during their last year in high school and before their freshman year in college. “Many of our students have to work and don’t always have the extra funds for things like dorm fees, for example.”

Clark added that the scholarship money can help keep the seniors from having to make a decision between the things they need to have for college and the things they need in the coming months for the close of their high school careers. 

During the check presentation Clark brought some teachers and a school administrator to the front of the stage to briefly tell their college journey stories. Along with Principal William C. Wade, nearly all of the educators attended a Historically Black College & University (HBCU). Some of the schools that were represented were Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, Alcorn State University, Alabama State University, and Tennessee State University.

You are worth every single investment that we make,” said Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring, a Spelman College alumnae. “If we can do it, you can do it as well.”

The scholarship was a surprise for the students, who believed they were attending an assembly.

This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...