Nineteen Beaumont Independent School District graduates were awarded scholarships totaling $25,000 through the Ben Rogers/Lamar University/BISD “I Have A Dream” Program Wednesday, June 11, at a banquet held in the BISD boardroom. Graduates received trophies along with their scholarships, as family and friends proudly observed.
The graduates were chosen based on recommendations from school counselors, essays and interviews conducted by a committee of “I Have A Dream” (IHAD) board members.
All of the students will attend either Lamar University or Lamar Institute of Technology and will each receive yearly scholarships in the amount of $1,250.
Regina Rogers, IHAD founder; Angelique Avery, executive director of Inspire, Encourage, Achieve; and Tom Abbage, president of IHAD, offered encouraging words to the class of 2014 graduating scholarship recipients.
“When I finished high school in 1965, long before you guys were born, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Abbage said to the graduates. “All I knew was I was going to go to college.”
Abbott said that while attending college, he was married with two children, and he and his wife both worked 40 hours a week. His wife attended school at Lamar as well, each earning three degrees.
“I am here to tell you it was tough. But I was focused,” he said, later retiring from ExxonMobil after 35 years in the engineering field. “Whatever you put your mind to, you can make it happen. You are going to fall sometimes. It is going to be difficult sometimes, but you don’t fail unless you don’t get up. When you give up is when you fail. Don’t ever give up.”
Rogers, along with her mother and brothers, founded the “I Have A Dream” Program as a gift to her father, Ben Rogers, in 1988 on his 75th birthday in recognition of his passion for helping young people succeed.
“When it was time for his birthday, we wanted to do something significant,” she said.
Having grown up on the streets of Chicago financially disadvantaged, Ben Rogers understood hard knocks, hard work and what survival required.
“It was very cold during the winter,” Rogers said. “At the age of 8, he got out on the streets of Chicago with hardly any clothes to put over his shoulders and one pair of shoes and sold newspapers to help bring in money for the family.”
Although he became a successful businessman, he ultimately realized his greatest wealth through his service to others and his passion for providing opportunities for young people.
“We took our first class of IHAD students in 1989, and every year we would take 75 children in honor of his 75th birthday,” Rogers said.
Since 1988, IHAD has honored that legacy. From 1989 through 2008, IHAD provided a mentoring program following 75 students each year from 6th grade through graduation, and then through higher education programs at Lamar or LIT, offering support and resources to help struggling students graduate as doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and all other professions. Since 2008, the program has continued to provide scholarships to deserving students who demonstrate the initiative to apply and achieve.
In addition to the IHAD scholarship of $650 per semester, Clint Kelley of West Brook High School also received the “Nico” Pearson Memorial “I Have A Dream” Scholarship, an additional $650 per semester given to one criminal justice major each year. The scholarship was named after Nicolas “Nico” Pearson, a Lamar criminal justice major and member of the IHAD family who died of testicular cancer March 12, 2010, at the age of 22. His mother, Stephanie, who wanted to honor her son’s legacy and established the scholarship in partnership with IHAD, was present June 11 to give the scholarship to Kelley.
“You have a wonderful legacy to perpetuate,” Rogers told Clint, as the 2014 Nicholas Pearson recipient.
Kelley said the scholarships would help tremendously.
“The family is struggling a little bit, so it’s going to help out a whole lot,” he said.
Kelley said after he graduates from Lamar, he plans to join the Marines.
“I am going to Officer Candidate School,” Kelley said.
Jeffery Rideaux, 18, of Central High School, said he plans to use his scholarship to attend Lamar Institute of Technology to study criminal justice and will enter the LIT police academy when he turns 21.
“I was shocked when they called my name on the stage about the scholarship. I just found out about it a couple of weeks ago at an awards ceremony. I am very grateful. It will help me a lot,” Rideaux said.
“I feel blessed,” Rideaux’s mother, Cynthia York, said. “I couldn’t ask for a better son. We went through a lot in life, and I thank God that he’s seen us through. But for (Jeffery) to accomplish what he’s accomplished and continue to look forward to his dreams, I couldn’t ask for any more.”
Margueritte Humphrey, student affairs director, said the students have to maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher and enroll in at least 12 credit hours each semester. They must also submit their grades to IHAD for review and filing to remain eligible.
For more information on the IHAD program, call (409) 832-1999.