Higher Education Financial Aid: Ron Brown Scholarship Awards

The Ron Brown scholarship awards are administered by the Ron Brown Scholar Fund, a public charity named in honor of the late Secretary of Commerce. The late Secretary was a highly regarded public servant who had passed away in a tragic plane crash in Eastern Europe in 1996. Mr. Brown was the 40th Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (from 1989 to 1993) and was instrumental in the campaign of Bill Clinton, whom he served under in the aforementioned cabinet position (as the first African American to do so).

A lifelong servant of the country, Mr. Brown joined the army in 1962 and served in South Korea and Europe before returning to the United States and attending law school at St. John’s University. His political and activist work included non-governmental organizations like the National Urban League and the campaign of Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy for President in 1979. While on an economic development trip, Mr. Brown’s plane crashed in Croatia. The Ron Brown Scholar Fund and related awards named in his honor are intended to provide financial aid and service opportunities for African Americans to follow in his footsteps.

The fund provides accepted scholars with $40,000 to use over the course of a four-year degree program, $10,000 per year. In the years since its inception, the fund has a 100 percent graduation rate, with scholars having gone on to successful careers in many fields. Ron Brown Scholars must participate in at least one professional internship during their undergraduate programs.

These programs have included such employers as Goldman Sachs, Lucent, Proctor and Gamble, and FedEx, with internship roles that help the scholars develop their professional and interpersonal skills. Recipients also become members of the Ron Brown Scholar Alumni Association, a network of students and graduates providing access to even more opportunities. The association has annual meetings and regular events to promote shared community experiences and service.

Donations to the fund are tax-deductible and interested parties are also invited to donate time. The program’s annual report highlights achievements of award recipients, past and present, and documents the very efficient use of the money received. A book called “I have Risen” celebrating the 10-year anniversary is available online with proceeds going back into the educational awards.

Now in its 16th year, the Ron Brown Scholarship Fund and the Ron Brown Scholar Program is a great resource for African American students who demonstrate the financial need and the commitment to excellence.

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