A Detroit nonprofit was so impressed with the recent turnout of black men who welcomed children to Seattle’s South Shore PreK-8 school that it’s providing $100,000 in college scholarships to high school seniors who attended there.

Share story

The 256 African-American men who high-fived and cheered students as they entered the doors of Seattle’s South Shore PreK-8 school earlier this month also made a big impression in Detroit.

The executive director of a nonprofit organization that provides college scholarships to inner-city black males was searching the Internet for a worthy school in Washington state when he read a Seattle Times story about the South Shore event, which was part of National African American Parent Involvement Day.

“What you all did, welcoming all the students, is something we do here in Detroit,” said Bryant George of Real Life 101. “I saw that and I saw the school and I immediately called.”

The organization will provide $100,000 in college scholarships to former South Shore students — $10,000 each to 10 African-American male students set to graduate from high school this year.

Applicants don’t have to meet a GPA requirement or choose a particular major.

They’re selected on the strength of a 1,000-word essay about what the student will personally do to improve the image of African-American males, George said.

Applications are due by mid-March and award letters will be sent in late April.

Winners receive tuition to two- or four-year colleges ($2,000 annually for up to five years), a laptop computer and a computer backpack.

Scholarship winners also are paired with a mentor from Real Life 101, which was founded in 2000 and has awarded 500 scholarships to date, supported by private and corporate donations.

“Our goal is to reach one high school in every state in America,” George said.

Real Life 101 has now reached 45 states, counting Washington, leaving just Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Montana and Wyoming on the to-do list.

George said his organization periodically visits public schools in the Detroit area with the same goal as the event at South Shore: to dispel negative stereotypes of black men by showing students examples of successful black professionals such as politicians, police officers and professors.

The welcoming line at South Shore — with a turnout more than double what organizers had hoped for — included Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and Seattle School Board Director Stephan Blanford.

“What started with letting our students know how precious they are to us has moved beyond our wildest dreams — 10 college scholarships, unbelievable!” South Shore Principal Kristin DeWitte said in a news release.

South Shore parent and event organizer Anthony Shoecraft said his first reaction to DeWitte’s phone call was tears and disbelief. Then he started thinking about ways to spark more scholarships through homegrown efforts.

“It’s just the power of the ripple effect,” Shoecraft said. “There’s so much more that can be done and this gesture represents that.”