Exploring financial aid options for college may sound like a bore to graduating high school seniors. But the Heal the Hood Foundation and the Bar-Kays are hoping to change that with their entertainment-infused Care Package Tour.
Last Wednesday, graduating seniors at Booker T. Washington High School were entertained by local musicians and dancers as they learned of a college scholarship provided by legendary soul collective the Bar-Kays during the first annual Care Package Tour.
The students sat amazed in the school's auditorium while watching performances by hip-hop dancer Ladia Yates, who has been featured in videos for Ciara, Missy Elliott, and Janelle Monáe. Local R&B crooners Iyse Gibson and Rodney Ellis (now known as King Ellis), who has recorded with 8Ball & MJG, Master P, and Twista, performed as well.
"Kids are inspired by the celebrities and their journeys. They're like role models," said LaDell Beamon, founder of the Heal the Hood Foundation of Memphis, the event's co-sponsor. "For celebrities to come to these inner-city schools, where a lot of times they don't get the celebrity impact, it's life changing [for students]."
The tour is presented through a partnership between Heal the Hood and the Bar-Kays. Schools identified to have issues with gang activity and low test scores were targeted for the tour.
During the event, seniors received information on the Allen Jones/Marjorie Barringer/Bar-Kays Scholarship. The scholarship, which ranges from $1,500 to $3,000, is a tribute to the Bar-Kays' former manager Allen Jones. It's specifically for students who plan to attend LeMoyne-Owen College, the city's only historically black institution.
Requirements to receive the scholarship include having at least a 2.0 GPA and score of 14 on the ACT test.
"It's not for those who are getting 21s on the SATs. It's for those who are getting the 17s and [have a] 2.5 GPA. It's for C-average kids," said Larry Dodson, marketing manager for the Bar-Kays and son of founding member Larry Dodson Sr. "We're trying to help provide [opportunities] for the inner-city kids. It's not a whole lot of money, but it's something to contribute to their higher education."
Students can go to the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis' website and click on its "scholarships" tab to apply. The deadline to apply is April 1st.
"I really hope, especially with the things that the celebrities said to them, that [students know] whatever they put their minds to, they're able to accomplish it if they put hard work and dedication to it first," Beamon said. "It's about hard work and staying focused."
The other schools included on the Care Package Tour were Carver, Hamilton, and Frayser High. Bar-Kays member Larry Dodson Sr. graduated from Booker T. Washington, and member James Alexander graduated from Carver.