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A special event this year

At a time when our nation is reeling from threats of all kinds, from racial injustice to homegrown extremists to a viral pandemic that has proven uncontrollable, the annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had more poignancy.

King confronted threats to our nation, most especially racial injustice, with great urgency and direct action. He paid a price that ultimately included the loss of his life.

Many of the issues we are dealing with today were noted during the seventh annual S. Delois Mayes Scholarship Foundation event on Monday. Usually a brunch fundraiser that brings together people for a meal and fellowship as well as bringing in money for the foundation’s scholarships, the event was free and virtual this year, with guests invited to make donations to help keep these scholarships going.

This scholarship foundation was founded in 2013 by the family of Shontoyia “Toyia” Delois Mayes, who lost her life in a car accident in 2002. In honoring both Mayes’ legacy and that of Dr. King, the foundation has now had seven annual events to raise money for scholarships and has given scholarships to 35 young people.

At this year’s event, the guest speaker was Steffanie B. Easter, the vice president of strategy at SAIC. She spoke on the event’s theme quote from King: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” She pointed out that intelligence is not only based on formal education. Those who are unable or have not received formal education can still have intelligence, regardless of their background.

In addition, this year’s event honored Michelle Gould with the 2020 Community Leadership Award. Gould is a second-grade teacher at Churchland Academy Elementary School in Portsmouth. “I would like to dedicate this award to my fellow educators,” said Gould. “Listen, no teacher is an island. It takes collaboration, it takes sharing information and ideas, and a lot of educators make the sacrifice day in and day out and are never recognized. So, I dedicate that this is not just for me, this is for us.”

Indeed, this year is different for all of us, so this year’s event was different, as well. However, the S. Delois Mayes Scholarship Foundation still pressed forward and honored community leaders while raising money for scholarships. The foundation’s board deserves all our gratitude.