CHARLESTON, S.C. (courtesy charlestonsouthern.edu) — Five years ago, during a Wednesday night Bible study, nine African American lives were taken by the hands of hate. In response to his mother’s and the other eight victims’ tragic deaths, Charleston Southern student Chris Singleton shared in a public statement heard around the globe that “love is stronger than hate.”
In memory of one of the victims, South Carolina Senator Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, and to address systemic racism in the state, a group of Coastal Community Foundation donors created the Reverend Pinckney Scholarship Program. The scholarship promotes access to higher education for African American students in Beaufort, Charleston and Jasper counties. Scholars also receive mentoring and professional training to hone professional skills, financial literacy and build peer-mentor relationships. Two of the scholarship recipients for the inaugural class, Brian DeLesline and Carmen Hamilton, are CSU Buccaneers.
In May, DeLesline graduated summa cum laude with an English education degree. He said that his goal is to make an impact on the kids to show them that people from their area can do great things.
“Education was always a field that I wanted to go into, but having this scholarship and being a representative of Rev. Pinckney makes me want to do even greater things like he did,“ DeLesline said.
Living his dream, DeLesline will begin his career as a high school English teacher this fall at his high school alma mater, Baptist Hill Middle/High School. He is also pursuing his master’s in educational administration and supervision from Liberty University online with a long-term goal to become an instructional coach, assistant principal or principal.
Carmen Hamilton, a nursing major, will graduate this December.
“It is my hope to further close the health disparities gap amongst the African American/Black population—especially when it pertains to mental health and the management of chronic illnesses,” said Hamilton.
She added that she is excited to see more students benefit from this scholarship program. “I truly hope that each cohort of scholars are better than the next that comes up. I really want each one to have better experiences, get to do different things, and be better people, and have better goals than the last cohort,” she said. “Because I want us to grow, be progressive, and exude excellence. I want [the next cohorts] to be great, better than I am.”
Coastal Community Foundation scholarship specialist Caroline Rakar provides support to each cohort of students.
“They came to us as high school seniors and to see this four years later—where they’ve come—is phenomenal,” said Rakar.