By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
The Black Student Union (BSU) at Seattle University has taken on the endeavor of leaving a legacy.
A few weeks ago, the BSU learned that their efforts to established a scholarship to help retain and recruit young people of African descent had been endowed by the university.
It was a great moment for BSU advisor Colina Bruce, the director of educational partnerships at Seattle U’s Center for Community Engagement and an adjunct faculty member in the university’s Master of Nonprofit Leadership program, and the members of the BSU, as their efforts led to Seattle University’s first student-led, Black-serving scholarship initiative.
“The beginning of February we learned that the scholarship was to be endowed by the University,” says Bruce. “This means the scholarship will be in perpetuity as a part of the school’s advancement program.”
In 2020, inspired by the racial, social and political events of 2020, BSU President Adilia Watson, Vice President Tatianah Summers and the rest of the BSU members wanted to address the issues of Black students on campus. Out of those conversations Black students on campus narrowed their scope to equity, diversity and accessibility for the future.
In a school where Blacks make up approximately five percent of the student body, Bruce discovered two factors that hindered the work of enticing young Black scholars to attend Seattle University — one was affordability and other was the lack of faces that look like theirs.
“Two consistent barriers for admitted students and potential students that I hear most often are that they can’t afford it or they just don’t see themselves represented on this campus,” says Bruce. “Students of color want and need to see other students who look like them and what to feel valued. The BSU scholarship is a way to approach this and I want to use my position as a staff member to help amplify the voices of the students who are making it a reality.”
Watson agrees and says that it was important for them to establish a fund specifically for Black people on campus.
“I had to apply for outside scholarships which were also very competitive,” says Watson. “A few of the scholarships you saw in high school were associated with me being Black or me being a Black woman and I am thankful for that. But I thought to myself, there are no scholarships here specifically for one of the school’s smallest racial populations, which is Black people.”
In its beginnings the union’s diligence was applied to social media utilizing a grassroots method through the likes Facebook and Venmo for marketing and to receive donations.
Ignited by the support of SU’s leadership, including Jason Oliver, a Seattle University Trustees and a former BSU president; Natasha Martin, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion; James Willette, dean of students; Alvin Sturdivant, vice president for Student Development; and others the BSU shot for the moon designating their goal upwards to $200,000.00. In the beginning, small donations were flowing in as the union raised a few thousand dollars. But, after following the advice of alumni and advisors, the floodgates began to open and they were able to raise over $100,000 in just a few weeks.
The work the BSU has done to establish a scholarship, exemplifies their leadership and voice and in bringing change and opportunity and the legacy this will leave is an important aspect in the bigger picture.
“One of the most important aspects of this effort and becoming an endowment is legacy,” says Bruce. “These young Black people will be leaving a lasting legacy for future students and that is extremely important.”
“I’m like a machine right now, cool! Now what’s next,” says Watson, as she describes her reaction about the news of the endowment and how quickly it impacted the fundraiser. “I was happy, I felt really good about it.”
Achievement is the end result of manifestation. These young scholars saw a need, addressed that need and then went into action to achieve the goals of that need.
“The work these young scholars achieved is an example of manifestation,” Bruce expresses. “They thought it out, they wrote it done, they put it out there and then they went into action.” “These young leaders are setting a precedent and leaving a legacy,” she continues, “And that’s something to be extremely proud of.”