On June 1, 2019, at the Waterford Reception Center in Springfield, Virginia, Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. held the fifth annual Scholarship and Community Recognition Breakfast; the event was underwritten by the Bernie L. Bates Foundation, Inc., the chapter’s associated charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Brother Eric Kelly, President of the Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter, and Brother Richard Morris, President of Bernie L. Bates Foundation, Inc, along with other chapter and foundation members greeted nearly120 recognition breakfast attendees.
The Foundation proudly awarded nearly $23,000 in scholarships and awards during the 2019 recognition program. Three types of awards were presented, including scholarships for high academic achievements, community recognitions and an outlier human interest story. High academic achievement winners were selected using established criteria set by the Bernie L. Bates Foundation’s scholarship committee. The Foundation’s Board of Directors selects those who made worthy contributions to the community. The Foundation also agreed to award one special scholarship to a high achieving foreign student enduring unusually harsh challenges. Financial commitments to the three types of awards were: academic achievement $20,250.00 (which included the highest single award of $8,000 to Ms. Elaine C. Ransom to be paid over four years); community recognition $200, and a Special Perseverance Award of $2,500.
Of special note, the five highest monetary awards were presented in the names of prominent past and present Psi Alpha Alpha members who devoted their lives in service to their communities, each setting the example of a selfless servant. These five Omega Men are Isaiah E. Barnwell, Jr., Marion Barnwell, William Brown, James Jenkins and John L. Peoples. An additional award was presented by the family of John Watson, also an Omega Man. Family members of each of these six Omega Men were present to witness the awarding of scholarships in their respective family member’s name.
Entertainment at the Recognition Breakfast was provided Ms. Sydney Pollard and Mr. Nicholas McCatty, first and second place winners, respectively, in Psi Alpha Alpha’s 2019 Talent Hunt Contest. Ms. Pollard performed a rhythmic dance interpretation to the musical song, “Rise Up” by performing artist Andra Day, while Mr. McCatty provided his wonderful vocals to the soulful classic “Everything Must Change” written by Benard Ighner. Both artists received standing ovations for their outstanding performances. And, of course, Omega Man Keith Wilson, also known as DJ “Kool K,” provided his mellow sounds throughout the breakfast event.
The event was highlighted with words of wisdom from dynamic speaker Brother Barrye Price, a retired Major General of the United States Army. His charged the students that while in college they are to be mindful of four things: always remember the principal reason for being in college; never lose sight of innate ability to achieve; seek help before finding yourself underwater; and there are no shortcuts to success. Do the work!
Mr. Shamaal Sheppard, a 2019 graduate of Columbia University with a Master’s in Health Policy and Management, also provided an excellent encouragement to the honorees. His final and most powerful point was to challenge the scholars to find the “why” in what they are doing. He described it as “the passion that gets you up each morning. This is what keeps the fire burning and brings purpose to your being.”
Over the past thirteen years, the BLB Foundation has provided over $400,000 in direct financial support to the Fairfax County community. The programs include the Youth Aviation Program, Reading for Success Program, Gum Springs Community Center initiatives, New Hope Housing in support of the homeless, Rebuilding Together by repairing the homes of the elderly and those with disabilities and many other community outreach initiatives activities.
Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter, undergirded by the fraternity’s cardinal principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift, and the Bernie L. Bates Foundation will continue to support Fairfax community’s outreach initiatives.