Bowling 50 games in one day at 80 years old is no small feat.
But neither is getting into college without scholarship money, which is why Julius Turnipseed set out to bowl 50 games on Monday, his 80th birthday. He bowled 10 games at five bowling alleys across Memphis, from Bartlett Bowling Center at 9 a.m. to his last game at FunQuest Bowling Center around 9 p.m.
Dubbed 50@80, Turnipseed hopes the event will raise awareness — and if all goes well, scholarship funding — for Booker T. Washington High School students interested in attending college.
"When I graduated from Booker T. Washington, my parents didn't have the funds to send me off to college," says Turnipseed, who went back to school to earn his degree at 50 years old. "When I was visiting and working with the school in 1994, I saw the kids were from the same general area that the kids of '49 were from, and their parents didn't have the funds to send them off to college. It's a vicious cycle that I really want to break."
With this in mind, Turnipseed helped merge his class of 1949 with the class of 1994 as a group committed to providing scholarships for the higher education of future Booker T. Washington students.
"In 1994, we started a scholarship fund, and the whole idea was to make it a type of scholarship that would continue for years to come," Turnipseed says. "When the 1949 class passed off the scene, the class of '94 would take over, and '94 would pass it on to the class of 2049. That was the idea."
But what the classes of '49 and '94 hoped would be a commitment to Booker T. Washington that spanned generations soon fell apart.
"We had an account with the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, but we dropped the ball, and we are no longer members," says Turnipseed of the '49/'94 scholarship fund. "Now we're going to go back in it, this time I hope with strong support from the corporate world."
A revived campaign began with the 50@80 event last Monday. From there, Turnipseed hopes to get enough donations to set up a donor-advised fund with the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. The fund would allow the classes of '49 and '94 to give college scholarships to deserving Booker T. Washington students via the Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation requires a $10,000 minimum balance to start a donor-advised fund, so that is Turnipseed's goal for now. But while individual donations will certainly play a huge role in garnering the $10,000 necessary to start the fund, Turnipseed says the thousands more necessary to send Booker T. Washington students to college will have to come from corporate donations as well.
"My whole thing about scholarship funds is that, particularly today, if we give a kid $500 or $800, that won't even get them to school. Even $1,000 won't help much today," Turnipseed says. "If we're going to help a kid, we need to get him there and make sure he stays there. That's why I want to make this a major fund-raiser, because if we're going to help them, let's really help them."