by Rebecca Rivas
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American
Thirty college students from across the country came to St. Louis from July 23-25 for the fourth annual Anheuser-Busch Legends of the Crown leadership symposium, where they accepted $150,000 in scholarships while participating in workshops on career planning and leadership development.
Legends of the Crown, a program Anheuser-Busch created in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), is an investment in the development of the next generation of leaders at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Each student received a $5,000 scholarship.
Julio Suárez, senior director of community affairs for Anheuser-Busch, referred to it as a “scholarship-plus” program.
“We are providing the needed financial assistance,” he said, “and also coupling that with a great experience by coming here and exposing them to some great individuals.”
On July 24, students heard from Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, who became America’s first African-American female combat pilot in 2002. Her keynote address was called “Zero to Breakthrough: How a Breakthrough Mentality Creates Breakthrough Results.” Armour went from beat cop to combat pilot in three years. Within a year she found herself flying over the deserts of Iraq supporting the men and women on the ground.
“Wait a minute, you’re black and a woman? Did you have any obstacles?” she said about the questions she’s been asked. “In my journey, I acknowledge the obstacles but don’t give them more power.”
Following FlyGirl, students attended professional development workshops and mock interviews with Anheuser-Busch executives to help them prepare to enter the job market. Community leaders were also present to facilitate high-energy panel discussions on leadership development.
On July 25, the day started with a presentation called “What Will Your Leadership Legend Be?” led by Paulette Jackson, UNCF vice president of development, and Rebeccah Bennett, founder and principal of emerging wisdom LLC.
“For the past four years, the Legends of the Crown scholarship program and leadership symposium has brought young African-American students together to celebrate their motivation to succeed,” said Jackson. “Our partnership with Anheuser-Busch has positively impacted students’ lives year after year by helping make the educational dreams of African-American students a reality.”
Later on July 25, the students drove through Ferguson on the way to volunteer at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ Jennings Center. There, they assembled book bags and school supplies for students in Ferguson/Florissant for their upcoming school year, as well as kits that will support the Urban League’s Save Our Sons employment program.
Suarez got the feeling that the students felt proud to address of the area’s challenges “in their own small way,” he said.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Anheuser-Busch’s connection to the “Great Kings and Queens of Africa” art collection that inspired the scholarship program and symposium. Created by 23 unique artists, each piece depicts an African leader and celebrates the richness of African history and the timeless lessons of leadership each king and queen exemplified on which the Legends of the Crown educational program was built.
“This is a great program to not only expose to them to who we are as a company but also to the great things this region has to offer,” Suarez said. “It was a great group of scholars.”
Anheuser-Busch and the UNCF awarded the $5,000 Legends of the Crown scholarships to 30 eligible student leaders entering their junior or senior year of study at four-year, accredited HBCUs in the 2015-2016 academic year. Recipients were required to have a 3.2 GPA or higher, strong leadership skills, and must be pursuing a pursuing a major in business, biology, chemistry, computer science or engineering.
For more information about the scholarship program, visit uncf.org.