Originally created 12/05/01

College fund quietly works wonders



LAST FRIDAY'S Chronicle had some discouraging news on the Metro section front. The top story reported that two men were arrested in connection with a killing on Walton Way. One man was shot and died because he refused to loan another man $4. The alleged perpetrators' photos showed them to be young African-Americans.

Farther down was a story about a convenience store robbery attempt. Both of the alleged perpetrators' photos showed them to be young African-American men, too.

Four men, all black, all charged with serious crimes; men who, if convicted, will never get to vote, and will have a difficult time becoming productive members of society. They could be in and out of jail all their lives.

They won't be alone in that experience. In America one out of three young black men between the ages of 20 and 29 is either in prison or is under parole or probation supervision. It's a statistic that is worsening - a decade ago, that number was one in four.

ALTHOUGH WE'VE become practically numb to these facts of life, this is not the whole story of black men in America. Not even close. There are many unsung heroes who are involved in their communities in positive, constructive ways.

Take the Kappa Alpha Psi alumni association, for example. A group of about 40 professional African-American men, they sponsor a fund-raising breakfast once a year to benefit the United Negro College Fund. This year's breakfast is at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel at 8:30 a.m. Saturday (tickets available by calling Paine College Office of Institutional Development, 821-8233).

A few years ago Kappa Alpha Psi was sending the United Negro College Fund about $500 a year. But then the group decided the needs of traditionally black colleges are too great to ignore, that more was needed by young African-Americans wanting to attend college.

So starting three years ago, via hard work and resolve, they increased the group's annual donation to about $5,000.

A word about the United Negro College Fund: It was started by Dr. Frederick D. Patterson, the former president of Tuskegee Institute, who in 1943 challenged his fellow presidents at traditionally black colleges to "pool their small monies and make a united appeal to the national conscience."

THE FUND IS a source of scholarship money to African-American students, but it also buys equipment, pays teachers' salaries and keeps buildings at traditionally black colleges from crumbling.

Schools like Paine College require millions to keep running each year, and Paine gets a portion of the $20 million that UNCF distributes between 39 member colleges annually for their various needs, including scholarships.

Ben Saxon, a financial specialist with First Union, is one of Kappa Alpha Psi's pro-active members. He believes Augusta can do even better than the $5,000 annual donation. As a beneficiary of a UNCF scholarship, Saxon, who now has a successful banking career, feels especially motivated to get more young black people into college.

"There's no reason why Augusta can't pull together and raise $100,000 for the program," Saxon told me.

I hope Kappa Alpha Psi's alumni association is successful in reaching that lofty goal in future years so that more African-American students can further their education and look to a brighter future.

I CAN THINK of no better way for Augustans to get into the Christmas spirit than to join these dedicated people for a Christmas breakfast this Saturday at the Radisson.

(Editor's note: Suzanne Downing is editorial page editor of The Chronicle.),