TEXARKANA, Texas -- Purple blazers were on display at Texas A&M University-Texarkana as the gathered members of The Scholars, a youth organization promoting academic excellence and entrepreneurship, welcomed the incoming members for 2021, the fourth such ceremony conducted by the organization.
Since 2014, The Scholars have promoted the pursuit of excellence and opportunity and continued that tradition Saturday. And to think, it all started with a fashion show.
"We realized the need for such an effort while running that show," said Rhonda Dolberry, co-founder and vice-president of The Scholars. "We originally worked with some of the young ladies who were originally part of that fashion show. We put the word out of what we wanted to do. Ten of them responded, and some of them remain with us to this day as they make their way through their school years."
"This was about getting them to realize they had potential to do great things and to make a difference in their communities," said Chiquita Burks, co-founder and president. "We wanted them to know who they were, where they were from and where they were going. As we worked with them, they began to ask, 'what else can we do?' This is what became the original Scholars."
The group supports each other and provides community, but they bring more to each other and the community at large.
"Not only do we work on academics, but we work on enrichment from other angles," said Burks. "We do drama productions, African drums, tutoring partnerships with A&M, cultural events, keeping history alive, and invite those of other cultures to come and do presentations as well."
Seven new Scholars joined the organization in 2021.
Channing Watson, one of the original Scholars and a sophomore at Arkansas High School, was one of the primary speakers. In fact, according to the founders, it is she who suggested the name of the organization. She says it is hard work to be a Scholar, but over time, she realized the extra activity is worth the effort.
"I realized what all we are doing, what we are learning, what it could mean for my future," she said. "Being a part of this opens up many benefits, like scholarships, college offers, that kind of thing."
Watson is focused on being a psychiatrist as her future profession.
"I want to understand why people think and act the way they do," she said. "I want to help others. The Scholars helps me meet experts in those fields and learn more about it as I go along. My family is grateful for the benefits I've gotten being a part of it all. I am going to be taking college-level courses soon in this field.
(For information about The Scholars, go to their Facebook page or their web site at thescholarstxk.org ir call 903-276-8813.)