Ron Brown American Journey Awards
April 04, 2012
Ron Brown American Journey Brings Together Family of Scholars and Mentors to Increase Odds-on Favorites
By: Albert C. Jones, America, The Diversity Place
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Ron Brown Scholar Program cultivates odds-on favorites in the 100 percentile, students who leave home for the halls of academia, their choice anywhere in America, study for careers, acquire knowledge, graduate — some earn advanced degrees — and then go out into the world to be doers, leaders, all with the intention of giving back and serve in the community.
This is a thumbnail description, fast and quick, of students selected out of the nation for the Ron Brown Scholar Program.
Many of the 281 selected since 1997 gathered for a reception and then the annual dinner in the JW Marriott Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. They are joined by 18 finalists that have come from across the nation to go through a series of interviews in the selection process for the 2012 class of the Ron Brown Scholar Program.
The third annual “Ron Brown American Journey” honorees, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, and Anthony M. Pilaro, chairman of the CAP Foundation and founder of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, are also here and will address this gathering during the awards presentation.
“The selection process for the Ron Brown Scholar Program is one that involves young people from all 50 states applying,” says Mike Mallory, who was recruited from a position at the University of Virginia to help found and lead the program.”
The program and its support staff are based in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We usually get about 6,500 applications a year,” he says. “The priorities are service and leadership, academic achievement, overcoming hardship, and recommendations from schools that support this extraordinary commitment to service. Our focus is finding young, talented people who are committed to service. We engage them in service projects around the world while they excel in leadership.”
Most that which is being done and said here tonight is in memory of Ron H. Brown, the late Secretary of Commerce, who as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) united his party to get Bill Clinton elected as president in 1992. Brown, along with 34 others, died April 1996 in a plane crash while headed for a trade mission in Croatia.
“Ron Brown changed lives,” says Maria Cardona, a colleague of Brown’s in the DNC and later as deputy press secretary at the Commerce Department. “He changed my life. He changed the life of many of those in this room. Even in death, Ron Brown is changing lives.
“He treated everybody the same,” says Cardona, a co-host for the banquet. “Everybody felt like an equal with Ron Brown.”
Cardona is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a public affairs firm based in Washington, D.C.
Sean Nolan is among a select group who can call themselves Ron Brown Scholar alumni. Nowadays he works for Pratt & Whitney, self-described “world leader in design and manufacture of aircraft engines.” On the Middletown, Connecticut campus, he is assigned to the compressor section of product development for commercial engines.
Nolan grew up in Tampa, Florida, where he attended a magnet school, Tampa Bay Technical High School. Selected in 1999 as a Ron Brown Scholar, he was selected for a $40,000 scholarship, which was given in four $10,000 installments. He continues to laud support that came from program administrators Mike Mallory and Vanessa Evans, executive director and associate director, respectively.
“First they bring you in and they are always there for you,” Nolan says. “They are always there for you. School is not easy. You always need someone to talk to. I struggled in grad school. Mr. Mallory and Vanessa, they were always there to help and I got through.
Nolan graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2003, going on to earn a doctorate from the school in 2009 in aeronautics and astronautics.
“Now it is my duty to check in with Mike and Vanessa,” he says about reciprocity. “Anything I can do to give back, I will do. Anything I can do to help, I will do.”
Tyrell Russell, a senior at Suncoast High School in Rivera Beach, Florida, is one of this year’s scholarship finalists.
“The selection process has gone smooth so far,” says Russell, who plans to major in chemistry and wants a career as a physician-scientist, specializing in clinical research. “I have been meeting and greeting the other finalists, learning where they are from and their backgrounds.”
Kevin J. Carrington, vice president and senior consultant for Segal Company, is in his fourth year on the 15-member Ron Brown Scholar Program board of trustees.
“There are two reasons I’m on the board,” Carrington says. “I know Mike Mallory. That’s the main reason. He was my senior resident advisor at the University of Virginia and a great person to be under.
“The other reason — any time you can help these scholars achieve their dreams is a great thing,” he says. “Anything we can do to help advance the Ron Brown Scholar Program I’m open to doing.”
Martine Caverl graduated with a degree in anthropology from New York University. She has traveled the world, worked to organize retail workers in Chicago, developed leadership skills and taught political analysis methods to students in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. She is a 1999 alumna of the Ron Brown Scholar Program.
“It enabled me to do something I wanted to do without regard to cost,” Caverl says. “I was able to go to the college that was my first choice and graduated with minimal student debt. That gave me a sense of freedom. As Ron Brown Scholars, we are part of a network of young people who are living our dreams. We are also focused on living a life of servitude.
“This program is making a really important impact on young people who have widespread interests in different fields,” Caverl says. “We are in medicine, the arts, business, engineering and education. Every sector of professional life this program has touched. We have the opportunity to motivate each other, which is really important.”
Nowadays Caverl is a nursing student at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where career options include acute care or labor and delivery. She has interests in midwifery or being a nurse practitioner.
“Certified midwife is becoming more popular,” she says, looking to the future. “Families are starting to realize it is a safe option. If you have a low-risk pregnancy, it is safe to have your child at home.”
Benjamin formerly ran a nonprofit primary care clinic in Bayou La Batre, in her native Alabama. She was named the 18th Surgeon General, also called America’s Doctor, by President Obama. With her appointment, she took a leave of absence from the board of trustees of the Ron Brown Scholar Program.
In a short video-biography narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, he says, “Dr. Benjamin treated people regardless of whether they could pay. On countless occasions, her patients paid her with buckets of fish, shrimp and oysters.”
Benjamin, called an example of a selfless person, has been widely honored in academia and the medical profession over the past decade. She is a Catholic and was honored with the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” by Pope Benedict XVI. Benjamin holds 15 honorary degrees.
Benjamin says, “It is often said, ‘You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.’ It’s so important that you set a good example. You never know who is watching you.”
Pilaro is chairman of the CAP Foundation, philanthropic arm of a family investment firm in Dublin, Ireland. Pilaro, a graduate of the University of Virginia and the law school, is founder of the Ron Brown Scholar Program.
“I will be remembered as the father of Andrew and for creating the Ron Brown Scholar Program,” Pilaro told the banquet audience.
2012 scholarships were awarded to 12 of 18 finalists. Recipients include David A. Boone, Cleveland, Ohio; SallyAnn M. Garvey-Lumumba, Vernon-Rochville, Connecticut; William Q. Humphrey, Marion, South Carolina; Faith A. Jackson, Bowie, Maryland; Miles J. Malbrough, Hendersonville, Tennessee; and Christopher A. Middleton, Newport News, Virginia.
Scholarship recipients also include Kelsey A. Miller, Dunkirk, Maryland; Tyrell J. Russell, Riviera Beach, Florida; Mohammed A. Toure, Darby, Pennsylvania; Rassan G. Walker, Louisville, Kentucky; Joellé M. Williams, Oakley, California; and Ken-Terika Zellner, Thomaston, Georgia.
(14 scholarships have been awarded - 2 names were omitted from this article: Victoria Akah of Memphis, TN and Alister Bent of Weston, FL)