UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization, delivered an overwhelming surprise to Ashley Booth, a deserving student at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. As part of the 35th annual UNCF “An Evening of Stars” fundraising show, UNCF president and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax arranged for the first of three $10,000 checks to be awarded to the freshman, who plans to become a veterinarian.
During the segment, Booth was surprised with the initial $10,000 check from UNCF, followed a generous matching check of $10,000 from the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation. Sony Pictures Television, the parent company of the “Queen Latifah Show,” closed the deal when another $10,000 award was added, bringing the total to $30,000.
“Against the costs of tuition, room, board and books totaling just over $25,000, Ashley Booth is an almost ideal representative of the college financial aid challenges that are facing contemporary college students,” said Lomax. “Despite doing everything right—earning great grades in high school that landed her a spot at Johnson C. Smith, where she is pursuing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degree in biology—Ashley and her mother are required to take out a significant amount of student loans. They have already assumed $24,000 of debt for her education and by the time Ashley graduates she could be $100,000 or more in debt. These scholarships will go a long way to help alleviate some of the burden they will assume to assure Ashley gets the education she deserves.”
Queen Latifah asked Ashley and her mother, who were seated in the audience, to come up on stage to speak with her about being a STEM student. Ashley, who attended Irvington High School in New Jersey, where Queen Latifah also attended, was unaware that she had been brought to Los Angeles to receive a scholarship.
Ashley’s story will be highlighted on UNCF’s fundraising telethon “UNCF An Evening of Stars” which will air nationally on the BET Network, Sunday, April 13 at 10p/9c and in syndication on May 31 and June 1 (check your local listings for times).