CCF honors the first graduating class of Pinckney Scholars

7 mins read

From staff reports

Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina is proud to announce that the first class of Rev. Pinckney Scholars from Beaufort, Charleston and Jasper counties has graduated college, underscoring the success of the scholarship program launched in the wake of the Emanuel AME Church tragedy five years ago.

A group of anonymous donors, recognizing South Carolina’s long history of systemic racism, was inspired to do something after the tragedy that would benefit communities of color in a lasting way. They chose to design this opportunity specifically for African American students of Beaufort, Charleston and Jasper counties.

The program is named after Rev. Pinckney, one of the nine victims, a former state senator and senior pastor of the church who cared deeply about education. While the program wasn’t meant to right the wrongs committed that day at Mother Emanuel, it carved a new space for young black students to be supported and celebrated by their community as they pursued their passions, from art to social justice to medical science.

“This class of Rev. Pinckney Scholars came to us as teenagers – bright, inspired, and passionate. They are all great examples of what’s possible when people are supported and have the resources needed for success,” President and CEO of Coastal Community Foundation Darrin Goss said in a release. “It has been an honor to work with them and see them grow into the young adults they are today.”

Eliana Pinckney, the daughter of the late Rev. Pinckney, said the outcomes for the first graduating class of Pinckney Scholars would have made her father proud.

“Hearing them talk and hearing them share their experiences about how passionate they are about leadership and community service and giving back, just reminds me of my father,” she said. “Something like this named after him would honestly put the biggest smile on his face.”

The program now has 40 students in the program. Its design — to embed community-building with academic programming — is perhaps one reason the program’s retention rate remains at about 97 percent, while the national retention rate for African American college students is about 63 percent.

Rev. Pinckney Scholars Class of 2020

Altoria Brown

Brown, from North Charleston, graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in Criminal Justice and Crime Scene Investigation. In her career, she plans to incorporate restorative justice practices so that troubled youth are supported rather than neglected, or worse, incarcerated.

Brian DeLesline

DeLesline, from Edisto Island, graduated with an English degree from Charleston Southern University and plans to become an English teacher, ideally in the same community he grew up in. Brian started his Masters of Education in Administration and Supervision from Liberty University after recently receiving his teaching certificate, and he is waiting on his contract to teach middle or high school next year at Baptist Hill, where he attended high school.

Carmen Hamilton

Hamilton, from Tarboro in Jasper County, will graduate in December with a degree in Nursing from Charleston Southern University. She plans to do an externship for at least a year in ER/Trauma before attending school to earn her Nurse Practitioner’s Degree in the fields of FNP (Family Nurse) or Anesthesia. She was inspired to begin a career in the medical field to help address the racial inequities in the American healthcare system.

Christian Carter

Carter, from Beaufort, earned her sociology degree from North Carolina State University. She will pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work in the hopes of working with nonprofits to mentor young people in the community she was raised in.

Denzel Wright

Denzel Wright, from Edisto Island, studied Studio Art at College of Charleston, where he honed his craft in photography in charcoal painting. He now hopes to get involved with Teach for America and further develop what he wants to present in his artwork. Also, he recently launched his new website for his artwork, denzelwrightstudios.com.

Henry Jones III

Jones, from Beaufort, will graduate in December with a degree in exercise science and physical therapy from the University of South Carolina-Upstate. Now, he is applying to doctoral programs to pursue his career in physical therapy.

“Being given the title of ‘Rev. Pinckney Scholar’ has been very surreal. It means so much just to have the honor to be able to uphold his legacy knowing the kind of man Reverend Pinckney was,” he said. “Being part of this scholarship put me on a bigger platform. It has helped me hold myself to a higher standard and made me more cognizant of what I do and how I do it.”

Kayla Hasty

Hasty, from Robertville in Jasper County, earned her biology degree from South Carolina State University. She will be attending Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Middleton, New York with the goal of becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine with a specialty in Family Medicine or OBGYN.

Kierra White

White, from North Charleston, earned her biology degree from Spelman College and now plants to attend medical school and pursue a career as an OBGYN. She said the Rev. Pinckney Scholarship Program and inspired her to achieve as much as she could academically.

Monejah Black

Black, from Charleston, graduated with a degree in mass communications from Winthrop University. She is interested in furthering her education in broadcast journalism and television media, and has been accepted to graduate school at Syracuse University and Northwestern University. She plans to take a gap year before enrolling.

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