In late April, three African American male college students received the Eddie Phillips Scholarship Award. The scholarship is currently a two-year pilot program awarded to young men who give back to their community through volunteer and community service projects. The scholarship is a partnership of the Minnesota Private College Fund and the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Fund.
Eddie Phillips was a successful businessman and philanthropist in the Twin Cities and grandson of Jay and Rose Phillips. “Eddie always believed a good education was an essential ingredient for a good life,” said Archie Givens, president and CEO of Legacy Management and Development Corp. “He and his family greatly valued education, and he believed it was important to advocate for young people who might be at a disadvantage, such as minority students.”
Dean Phillips, co-chair of the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota, is Eddie Phillips’ son. “Our dad was a passionate believer in the transformative power of higher education and invested much time and treasure to expand opportunity to as many as possible during his lifetime,” he said. “We are thrilled to partner with the Minnesota Private College Fund to perpetuate his legacy by supporting men of color with the creation of the Eddie Phillips Scholarship.”
Abdul Omari, owner of AMO Enterprises, specializes in leadership and development training and is also in charge of the development and implementation of this Eddie Phillips scholarship project. The award has a goal of helping develop the leadership skills of African American or Native American men at private colleges in Minnesota.
“We will work with them on leadership training and development,” explains Omari. We will have them work on a capstone project during the summer months.” A capstone project is used to help students demonstrate skills they have learned through on-the-job training.
Once the awardees are into the 2016 school year they will be given continuous support from a mentor on their individual campus as well as monthly check-ins with Omari. In the spring semester of 2016 they will travel to a leadership conference.
During this initial pilot, an internship will be identified for each young man where they will spend the summer of 2016 doing on-the-job training. Omari adds, “The idea is to take three young men on private college campuses, [and] we will provide them with the things they need: financial support, leadership mentoring, financial capital.
“Forward thinking, after this first two-year pilot, we would like to bring in young men on a yearly basis.” This year’s award ceremony honored three young men: David Peterson, Malick Ceesay and Zach Nelson.
Peterson, an accounting major, graduated from Eagan high school and is currently a sophomore at Hamline University in St. Paul. On campus this coming academic year he will be a new student mentor, helping new students get familiar with the Hamline Campus.
Peterson is also the treasurer for two organizations: PRIDE, which is the Black student association on the Hamline campus, and 10,000 Villages, a nonprofit. In his spare time, Peterson volunteers in his community with Black Men’s Circle, Pathfinders.
“My initial reaction was that of being overwhelmed,” said Peterson on receiving the award. “I received the news of my award at the perfect time. In order to take the CPA exam I need 150 credits and I would have been two away without this award.
Malick Ceesay is a junior at Augsburg College majoring in theatre arts performance and design. He is also a co-events coordinator of Save the Kids Augsburg Chapter, working to find ways to end incarceration and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.
“Most of the work I do is going into the urban communities to help youth find their creativities and lift their own voices in the education system and their curriculum,” said Ceesay.
He heard about the scholarship through the director of the African-American Student Alliance on the Augsburg Campus. In his spare time he likes “to get into the community and work with youth and do open-mics, acting and plays. I felt assured once I received this scholarship. To be specific, it wasn’t about the grant that I was given, but it was the mission of serving for my community”
Zach Nelson is a sophomore at Concordia, moving into his junior academic year. He was approached by the former dean of students at his school to apply for the scholarship. Nelson has coached a lot through the youth athletic league at his former high school, Fridley High School, coaching two fifth-grade teams and one eighth-grade team.
Nelson is studying business management, and although he does not yet know what he wants to do, he does say, “I definitely do want to work in a position of leadership… Going forward, with this scholarship, I will continue to work with my community, but also use what I learn from this experience to improve my community in new ways.”