2010 Alma Exley Scholar Is Honored

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Khalil Graham, center, is congratulated by previous recipients of Alma Exley memorial scholarships, from left, Chi-Ann Lin, Desi Nesmith, Ollie-Rubiah Williams and Sacha Kelly.

Khalil Graham, a student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., has been honored as the 2010 recipient of the Alma Exley Memorial Scholarship.

Fifty people attended a reception in his honor at the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford, Conn., on May 12.

Mr. Graham, who grew up in New York City, is a graduate of the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., where he was a founder of Minority Males Inspired Toward Achievement (M.M.I.T.A.), a group designated to help residents of Windsor and surrounding communities.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Richmond with concentrations in African American Studies, Urban Policy and Practice, and Social Science. He was also elected the graduation speaker for the Class of 2008.

He received a master’s degree in education from Sacred Heart on May 15, 2010 and has been accepted into the doctoral program in educational leadership at the University of Kentucky.

Among the attendees were four previous recipients of Alma Exley memorial scholarships, who congratulated Mr. Graham and welcomed him to the scholarship family.

They are Chi-Ann Lin, a teacher at Staples High School, Westport; Desi Nesmith, principal of America’s Choice School at SAND, Hartford; Ollie-Rubiah Williams, a teacher at Farmington Valley Diagnostic Center, Avon; and Sacha Kelly, a teacher at Big Picture High School, a regional magnet school in Bloomfield.

Guest speaker at the reception was Maureen Price-Boreland, executive director of Community Partners in Action (CPA), a Hartford-based not-for-profit agency that provides a variety of services in the criminal justice field.

Ms. Price-Boreland, who began her career as a public school teacher, earned a law degree while working at CPA and is an adjunct professor at Central Connecticut State University. She spoke about the importance of diversity in fields from criminal justice to education, and underlined the need for more persons of color in the teaching profession.

Academic Achievement and Community Service
Khalil Graham played on the varsity football team at Richmond and received the Spider Scholar award given to students who excel in both academics and athletics. He was an organizer of Nets for Africa, which secured funding for bed nets for African children. He served as a volunteer for the Richmond Area Boys & Girls Club, hosting children to familiarize them with college life. He also tutored students in science, mathematics and English in the Richmond Public Schools.

Returning to New York City during the summer, he worked in Project Breakthrough, teaching seventh grade biology and advising eighth grade students on their high school options.

While pursuing his master’s degree in education at Sacred Heart, he was employed at Amistad Academy, New Haven, during 2008-2009 and at Jettie S. Tisdale School in Bridgeport during 2009-2010.

In accepting the scholarship, Mr. Graham said, in part:

“I want to take a moment to thank all those who made it possible for me to reach this moment. I was once told that it’s important to acknowledge that all who achieve great things “stand on the shoulders of giants.” I can see many of my personal giants in this room. This includes my family representation and all people who have touched me on my educational and personal journey. It wasn’t always easy (I have myself to blame for most of that.), but much of the reason I believe my path is so bright is because of the love and encouragement you have given along the way.

“In this moment I honor all those who could not be here today, including my grandmother, who raised me, Sandra Joyce Graham, for instilling an unwavering faith in the higher power, and molding me with the work ethic to always want to make a lasting impact in society. While she as well as all of those who could not be in attendance tonight are sorely missed, I do plan to let their dreams shine through in all the achievements I strive for.

“I hope to use this platform as a springboard to develop new leadership tactics in classrooms to ensure student growth. Many have asked me why I have decided to pursue this field and embark on this journey. I am reminded of writer James Baldwin, who once said, “For these are all our children. We will either pay for, or profit from, whatever they become…”

“I have been bestowed with the gift of love; love for children, love for education, and love for change. I look forward to uncloaking the unknown potential of America’s youth, one child at a time.

“By standing for diversity and excellence in the field of education, the Alma Exley Scholarship Program has shown itself to be unafraid of failure by stepping outside the box in their search for the best talent in the field of education. The commitment began when Alma Exley decided to make a difference in the lives of all children. As I create my own legacy in the field of education, I will continue to shine a glowing light on her legacy and the legacy of the program.

“The greatest pain in life is to be invisible. What I’ve learned is that if you listen carefully enough, all students just want to be heard. And I thank all the people who give me strength to stand as a voice for America youth. I will continue to let students see themselves and for a moment, glimpse the power to change and the power to triumph.”

Also speaking was Jim Williamson, executive director of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, which administers the scholarship program. Mr. Williamson reported that nearly 1,000 individual contributions have been made to the program since its inception in 1995, and that the endowment has surpassed $100,000. In all, nearly $46,000 in scholarships have been awarded since the first recipient was named in 1996.

Posted May 15, 2010