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New non-profit to award local students scholarships

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A group of Oceanside educators, former educators and one alumnus, spearheaded by retired elementary school principal Tom Capone, started a non-profit organization for the purpose of awarding scholarships to African American/Black high school seniors from Oceanside and other local communities.

Moved by a speech given by North Central University (MN) President Dr. Scott Hagan during George Floyd’s memorial service in March, Capone sprung into action and it wasn’t before long Say Their Names was established.

“Those opening remarks from Hagan struck a chord with me,” said Capone, who enjoyed a 30-year career in education before retiring in 2018. “He challenged all educators to consider starting a scholarship and I really felt a connection,” he added. “I wasn’t sure what I’d do in my retirement, but I knew it would be meaningful. However small or however big this turns out to be, it’ll be meaningful.”

In addition to Capone, the non-profit’s President, the organization includes Vice President Michele Cadogan, in her 27th year at Oaks School #3 in Oceanside, Richie Woods, Donna Migdol, Kathy Chapman, Rhonda Eisenberg and Ellyn Levine, all who completed at least 30-year careers in the district, Fred Koller, a retired assistant principal, Rob Blount, current teacher and football/lacrosse coach with 12 years of experience, and former Oceanside student and current Yale University student Yousef Aly.

The group began meetings via Zoom in the spring and soon put a concrete idea in place, Capone said. Its mission statement is to award academic scholarships to economically disadvantaged graduating Black or African American seniors in good academic standing who possess a strong sense of social responsibility, are empathetic, passionate, and sensitive to the needs of others.  

“Our goal is to present three or four scholarships at the end of this school year and the amount will depend on fundraising,” Capone said. “We have no affiliation with any school districts, so we’re looking at various districts and communities.”

“The United For Change Memorial Scholarship is part of a growing movement to bring about change in communities by offering Black and African American high school seniors with educational scholarships that will help to minimize the opportunity gap that exists for this underrepresented segment of our population,” the organization notes on its website.

It is the organization’s hope it can contribute to the movement that began to gain real momentum with the events that have unfolded in 2020, and to also help eradicate the racial disparities that exist today for Black and African Americans.

“We’re still in the infancy stage but we’re really excited about what this can develop into,” Blount said.

For more information, visit www.saytheirnames.education.