West Virginia Black Heritage Festival scholarships aid local youth seeking higher education opportunities | WV News

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EDITOR’S NOTE: WV News and the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival have teamed up to produce a series of stories on Black History and cultural diversity in the coming weeks while promoting the festival scholarship fund with a GoFundMe page at gf.me/u/zhh66c.

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WV News) — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability for the organization to do many of its well-known events, the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival is still striving to provide scholarships to students in need.

Each year, deserving students are awarded Kelly Miller/WVBHF Scholarships that help with college expenses.

According to Chairman Jim Griffin, the scholarships provide a great benefit to the students who receive them.

“We help those with a 2.5 (grade point) average, and we really look at their need. And a lot of these students are really, really in need. They come from the community, and there is not a lot of resources available for them at the home,” Griffin said. “Oftentimes, these students don’t have a lot of guidance from counselors or from people who’ve had experience in going to college and how to get these funds, so our committee kind of helps them along that way and really helps a lot of young people. A lot of them are first-time (college) students. … It does really hit a portion of our community who normally don’t really receive this type of assistance.”

According to West Virginia Black Heritage Festival Vice Chairman Dorian James, the scholarships can vary depending on available funds.

Events such as the Annual Kelly Miller-Black Heritage Festival Golf Tournament help raise money for the scholarship fund each year. And normally, there is a banquet where scholarship recipients receive a certificate. Due to COVID-19, things will be different this year, James said.

“We will go through a very detailed interviewing process with the applicants. We will actually do an interview with them. We get their application, we see if they are eligible, we select a number depending on those that are eligible and set up phone interviews or Zoom interviews and they will answer questions from each (scholarship) committee member. … Once we select those that are eligible, we notify them. And to complete the process, we ask them to do an essay based on a question, and all of [the questions] are different (each year),” he said.

Once those are received as well as verification of enrollment into postsecondary education, arrangements are made to issue the award, James said.

“We anticipate to have everything competed and done by May of this year. In the past we’ve done it in June,” he said.

According to the scholarship application form, some of the requirements to be eligible include being a current resident of West Virginia, though individuals can attend out-of-state schools; applicants must be of African American decent; have plans to attend an institute of higher education; and must have a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Applications and essays must be submitted by May 1, with no late entries accepted.

In 2020, there were 12 Kelly Miller/WVBHF Scholars. First priority is given to eligible graduating high school seniors entering into their first year of college or vocational schools, but support is also provided to matriculated students in a state-approved program leading to a certification, associate degree, baccalaureate, and master’s or doctorate degrees under special consideration, according to the scholarship application fact sheet.

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“We really, really enjoy finding those deserving students across the state and assist them with needs to further their education,” James said.

For information on the scholarship, list of guidelines and information on the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival, visit wvbhf.com.

{span}Staff writer Steven Baublitz can be reached at (304)626-1404 or sbaublitz@theet.com.{/span}

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