In her freshman year at University of California, Los Angeles, Cherise Moore said her math professor told her to major in something “like the rest of your kind’ after receiving a C on a midterm.
As a math major, Moore said she was devastated after hearing that, but chose to persevere and not let his comments shake her character. Now, as a current board member of the William S. Hart Union High School District, Moore persisted past the stereotypical boundaries by constantly reminding herself to “do you.”
“You’re gonna have those moments too,” said Moore to the students receiving a scholarship award in the audience on Saturday at College of the Canyons. “Those moments when you might doubt your greatness or when someone is going to try and tear down your greatness. I’m just gonna ask you to please remember to just do you.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Santa Clarita branch held an awards reception at the COC University Center Plaza on Saturday to honor the five students who won their Future Leaders Scholarship.
The scholarship recipients consisted of five Black high school students: Marcus Doyle of Santa Clarita Valley International, Gwendolyn Chambers of Hart High School, Madison Brown of Canyon High School, Bianca Lewis of Granada Hills Charter High School, and Jenessis Smith-Thomas of COC.
Valerie Bradford, president of the NAACP SCV branch, said they held a fundraiser in October to raise money in order to award $10,000 worth of scholarships to students of color furthering their education.
“These students sometimes have a difficult time with continuing education, as far as finances are concerned,” Bradford said. “So it is our goal today to just help and contribute to their quest for continuing education by awarding them with scholarships.”
Bradford said there was an application process in which each student sent their high school transcripts and submitted a personal essay detailing their future goals in life. Out of a dozen applicants, five students were selected by a committee who reviewed each application, according to Bradford.
Despite going to Granada Hills for high school, Bianca Lewis, 18, and her mother, Beverly, are both Santa Clarita residents. Beverly, who worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for 29 years, raised Bianca as a single mother juggling her parental responsibilities with a full-time job.
“That in itself was a challenge,” said Beverly reflecting on raising Bianca as a single mother. “It was very demanding of my time, but I did my best to juggle it and support all her endeavors. She was a student athlete for many years so I had to get her to practice along with exposing her to things she was interested in at the time.”
Lewis said the work her mother did in law enforcement inspired her to major in political science with a minor in psychology. Lewis also said she wants to go to law school to be a criminal prosecutor..
“My mom has been a big help to me because she’s never told me what I should do,” Lewis said. “She has always been supportive of me and pushes me to my best potential.”
Doyle, a 17-year-old senior from SCVi, said when he was 4, he would watch Michael Jackson dance videos, which ultimately inspired him to become a professional dancer for 10 years. Doyle currently works as a student actor starring in films like “Thriller” (2018) and “Walk Through The Bible” (2020). He plans on continuing his education through a four-year program majoring in film business.
“It means so much to me,” said Doyle on being chosen for the scholarship. “I am super honored. It’s amazing how the NAACP has this in the first place and for them to choose me as a youth future leader, it means a lot.”
Doyle’s dad, Trevor, said he and his mother, Tawn Hanson, are both “over the moon” about him being selected for the Future Leaders scholarship.
“We’re extremely proud,” Trevor said. “Marcus is a hard worker and he is very diligent with everything that he does. This is just one of the many rewards he has earned for all the things that he does.”
The awards ceremony included guest speakers, Diane Fiera, the deputy chancellor of COC, and Cherise Moore of the Hart school board. Following the speeches, each scholarship recipient was called by name and presented with a check for $2,000 and a Certificate of Recognition from the office of Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita.
Bradford said it means the world for her to do her part in giving back to the community through supporting students with ambitions for the future.
“It is extremely rewarding,” Bradford said. “I feel like I am supporting not only us, but I’m supporting residents that are people of color here in Santa Clarita.”