On Jan. 12, the United Planning Organization (UPO) raised over $45,000 for the Joseph A. Beavers Scholarship and two new scholarships for Washingtonians at the 29th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast.
Held at the J.W. Marriott in downtown DC, over 500 people attended the early morning event to help raise money for the scholarships, hear from UPO’s annual awardees, and meet this year’s scholarship recipients. Among attendees were Mayor Vincent Gray, Chaplain for the U.S. Senate Dr. Barry C. Black, Coca-Cola’s Director of Public Affairs and Communications Curtis Etherly, Jr., and local nonprofit leaders.
“[I came today] to support UPO and the amazing and transformative work they’re doing here in the city,” said Kenneth Ward, executive director of College Bound. “I partnered with UPO for a number of years with my nonprofit to support underserved students and their attainment of college degrees.”
Chair of UPO’s Board of Directors John Oberdorfer kicked off the breakfast with a reflection of why the nonprofit organization marks the civil rights leader’s birthday.
“This morning UPO marks, for the 29th time, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Oberdorfer. “Why? To make us think about our lives and what he did for us.”
UPO is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is the community action agency for the residents of Washington, DC.
Since its establishment in 1962, the organization has provided community programs and services to facilitate the growth and promotion of self-reliance for DC citizens. They also operate Head Start and early development programs, eco-friendly initiatives, and neighborhood-based community services.
Through their annual memorial breakfast honoring the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the UPO raises money for five $10,000 Joseph A. Beaver scholarships which are awarded to low-income students.
Since 2007, the UPO has raised $650,000 and assisted 150 DC students.
This year, the Adult Construction Trade & Nursing Scholarship was added to support adults interested in pursuing careers in the construction and weatherization industry or in healthcare.
“We found that, while we were supporting young people, adults also wanted to be able to go back to college to support their families and find better employment opportunities,” said UPO’s Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff Andrea Thomas. “As a community action agency, of course one of our big pushes is to help people have secure employment because that’s what leads to self-sufficiency and that’s what we’re all about. So, it made sense to add on scholarships that would be for the adult population to help them move forward in their careers.”
In addition to her role with UPO, Thomas sits on the scholarship board and helps decide the scholarship recipients.
“I’ll be honest. Every year, I think we grapple with wanting to award every single young person who sends in an application with a scholarship,” said Thomas.
This year, Jennifer Hernandez was one of five recipients to be awarded with the Joseph A. Beavers Scholarship. A graduate of the District’s Bell Multicultural High School and a single mother, she was surprised by the announcement.
“Since I’m a teen mom, it was really hard for me to find money to go to college and my only option was through private scholarship. When I saw the Beavers Scholarship I didn’t think I would get it but I just applied,” she said.
Over the summer, she received a phone call from UPO awarding her with the scholarship. It covers her full tuition at Trinity University. While her major is undecided, she’s considering a degree in sociology.
Carman Chatman, Danielle Drumgoole, Bryan Ford, Jennifer Hernandez, and Tamika McKay were also awarded the Joseph A. Beavers Scholarship. Beverly Barbour, Bernedia Drayton, and Linda Pratt were awarded the Adult Construction Trade & Nursing Scholarship.
In addition to scholarship fundraising for 2013, UPO honored the Delta Housing Corporation of DC and Educare Learning Network for their commitment to the District and its residents. Shirley Higuchi, assistant executive director of Legal Regulatory Affairs for the American Psychological Association, was presented with UPO’s Community Service Award.
“We actually plan this year round,” said UPO’s President & CEO Dana Jones. “The success of the event reflects the economy but we are pleased and honored that so many of our friends have continued to support us and that we brought on new supporters.”
To contribute to UPO and its efforts, please visit www.upo.org.