The Elizabeth Wesley Youth Merit Incentive Award Program has been awarding monetary incentives to African-American youth in Tacoma-Pierce County since 1996. In the 19 years since the program’s inception, community members and local businesses have invested more than $700,000 in youth development. And, in addition to the generous incentive donations from the community, some local businesses and individuals have even gone as far as to donate additional scholarships to help further brighten the futures of some of the students recognized during the event.
Wayne Williams, committee co-chair for the program, says Comcast has been a generous donor for the past eight years, supporting the program from two angles. “They support donations for general operating and they also do a scholarship for us,” says Williams. In the past, Comcast has awarded two $1,000 Comcast Technology Scholarships, but at this year’s event, which took place on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, Comcast surprised five incentive recipients, awarding three $1,000 scholarships and two $5,000 scholarships.
Comcast’s External Affairs Manager, Diem Ly, says, as a longtime supporter of the Elizabeth Wesley Youth Merit Incentive Award Program, Comcast wanted to provide even more support to the program this year. With an increased number of Elizabeth Wesley program applicants than in year’s past, Comcast decided to award three additional Comcast Technology Scholarships at this year’s event. Working together with the Tacoma Urban League to identify scholarship recipients, Comcast decided on five students to honor at the ceremony. “We appreciate that our Comcast scholarship recipients have expressed an interest in technology-oriented careers,” says Ly. “We hope this recognition gives them the encouragement and empowerment to pursue their dreams.”
The award ceremony began with several speeches, including one from keynote speaker and Tacoma City Mayor, Marilyn Strickland. Shortly following the Mayor’s speech, 9th, 10th and 11th grade award recipients proudly marched up on stage, stating their name, school and what career they intended to have someday. The room was full of smiles and damp eyes as the last award recipient returned to their seat.
After honoring the incentive award recipients, the Puyallup School District was recognized and presented with a Drum Major Award for its commitment to student success and statewide leadership in higher-than-average graduation rates. At this point, the Sharon McGavick Student Center at Clover Park Technical College was brimming with emotion, but there were still a handful of unknowing students left to be honored at the ceremony.
Williams took the podium and introduced the various businesses and groups presenting scholarships to students who demonstrated leadership, community service, academic excellence and other admirable qualities. The business awarding the most scholarships at the event was Comcast. Ly took the stage, giving an inspirational – and light hearted speech – before calling the names of the Comcast Technology Scholarship recipients. Each student called to the stage stood from their seat and headed toward the podium, excited, nervous and surprised all at once.
Comcast Technology Scholarship recipients included Wilson High School student Amara Gordon, Tacoma School of the Arts student Asha Richardson, Franklin Pierce High School student Amoje Moody, Washington High School student Sharon Washington, and Puyallup High School student Savannah Jarrett.
All Comcast Technology Scholarship recipients met or exceeded Comcast’s scholarship eligibility requirements, having expressed an interest in careers relating to technology, communications or media, and demonstrating inspirational roles as volunteers and leaders in their schools and local communities.
The students – some still in shock from the honor – had no idea they would be receiving the Comcast Technology Scholarship in addition to the Elizabeth Wesley Youth Merit Incentive Award. Comcast scholarship recipient Savannah Jarrett says, “This was really unexpected. I didn’t know it was going to happen. I’m so happy and appreciative of the honor.”
The general response from all the scholarship recipients was one of surprise and gratitude. Tacoma School of the Arts student and Comcast Technology Scholarship award recipient Asha Richardson says, “It’s such a blessing that I got the scholarship on top of the E. Wesley award. This encourages me more to pursue my goals and dreams. I thank Comcast and E. Wesley.”
The ceremony ended with closing remarks from former Tacoma Urban League President, Thomas Dixon, and a closing prayer from Shiloh Baptist Church Youth Pastor, Rev. Chavis Young.
Comcast is proud to support a program that positively impacts South Sound-area youth, and looks forward to providing funding and support to other organizations and programs in our region. If you would like to support the Elizabeth Wesley Youth Merit Incentive Program, visit the program’s website here. To learn more about Comcast philanthropy and partnerships, click here.