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Scholarship Opportunity for Students of Color in Salem-Keizer

Written by Luis Ramirez on May. 4th, 2022
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A scholarship opportunity for underrepresented students of color in the Salem-Keizer area is one that may be often overlooked.

The Thompson-Patch Scholarship Fund has been around since 1995 and has assisted more than 250 students who have faced challenges in their lives and have shown the ability to overcome these challenges.

 The scholarship was named after Rev. Nellie Thompson and Dorothy Patch, who strongly advocated for scholarship justice and equity in the Salem-Keizer area.

Thompson was the founder of the Pauline Memorial AME Zion Church. Patch was a school teacher and community activist. Both women were pioneers for equality and racial diversity. 

“The scholarship was specifically created to support scholarship opportunities for African-American kids and BIPOC community kids,” President of the Thompson-Patch Scholarship Fund Benny C. Williams said. “We have annually put various amounts into kids’ hands for the past 27 years. The significance of this is to help those minority kids that have had a difficult time at being successful with graduation rates and going off to college.”

The goal of the foundation is to make a more concerted effort to businesses and other organizations in the community to help gather support and spread the news on the scholarship opportunities. 

“It’s been a vested interest by the directors to help kids with their academic endeavors after graduating from high school,” Williams said. “We have a structured process that allows kids to apply for the scholarships and we’ve historically handed out and awarded 20 students with scholarships.”

Award winners typically get anywhere from $500-1,500 and this year was a bit different as they created three named scholarships for candidates to receive the highest amounts of money. 

This scholarship is different than others as the committee isn’t searching for folks with the highest GPA, but those who showed improvement in academic performance, have interests in extracurricular activities and have future academic or career goals. 

“We’re not looking for the 4.0 students because we know colleges will seek them out,” Williams said. “We’re looking for those that have overcome extreme hardships with our scholarships. From homelessness, to abuse, to any number of things. These kids have been able to overcome those struggles and we want to honor them.”

The scholarship currently has a requirement of a 2.0 GPA and above and is available for graduating high school students from the Salem-Keizer School District and Chemawa Indian School who identify as Native American, Latinx, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, or otherwise as a person of color. 

“There are currently eight board members and we’re very diverse in the community,” Williams said. “Everybody is volunteering and frankly we want to make sure that the general public becomes more aware of us. There’s not a lot of individuals or businesses familiar with us.”

For more information on the Thompson-Patch Scholarship Fund, email ThompsonPatchFund@gmail.com or give them a call at 503-779-5414. You can also contact them or make a donation at PO Box 13584, Salem, OR 97309.

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