With reverence to past, scholarship recipients reminded they’re not facing their futures alone

Dr. Oron Jackson’s grandmother may have never imagined that an envelope she handed him in 1990 would still be changing lives today. But Saturday evening as he spoke about that envelope it was clear that money was not the most valuable thing inside.

Jackson, who grew up in Desert Highland Gateway Estates and graduated from Palm Springs High School, went on to earn a doctorate in education leadership. He’s currently an administrator in the Desert Sands Unified School District with plans to become a university professor. The envelope, handed to him by his grandmother, Claudy Crawford, contained enough money to help him begin his educational journey at San Diego State University. But it also helped build a bridge between generations.

As he looked out on the hundreds of people in attendance at Saturday evening’s Negro Academic Scholarship Fund scholarship ball during his keynote speech at the Palm Springs Hilton, Jackson reminded new scholarship recipients from four area high schools that those who paved the path they were about to walk were seated in the room with them.

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“Reverence is a reminder for all of us that our path has been paved and paid for,” Jackson said, recalling his grandmother’s years of hard work that included laboring in the fields of Indio. “The folks in this room sacrificed and they laid flat to create a bridge.”

Kateira Session, right, was a 2013 recipient of funds from the Palm Springs-based Negro Academic Scholarship Fund. Its current president, Janice Harrell, is to Session’s right. Two dozen past scholarship recipients were in attendance at a ball Saturday at the Palm Springs Hilton.

Each of the 11 new scholarship awardees will receive between $500 and $1,000 from the fund, which was first established in the city in 1970. But they are also now part of a village, Jackson reminded them, that will rally to their side no matter where life takes them.

As he asked many in the audience to stand for recognition, Jackson reminded the high school seniors: “If you guys are ever confused about who you go to to network, or who you go to for guidance, you just got a bird’s eye view of the village.”

Saturday’s event is the largest fund-raiser for the organization and has been held annually for more than 50 years. So far, the scholarship fund has helped more than 350 Black students with academic promise, including 35 who are currently pursuing degrees.

Board members of the Negro Academic Scholarship Fund, which was started 52 years ago in Palm Springs, pause for a picture during the organization’s annual ball Saturday evening.

This year’s scholarship recipients were: Kayla Howard, Jiyon Cannady Ward, Taraja Newberry, Chima Ohaechesi, Trevione Walker, Adrian Tuala, Keyvanna Session, A’Julianni Timothy, Leiliana Brown, Sophia Hove, and Uziel Gomez.

More than 300 packed the Hilton’s Horizon Ballroom, with entertainment provided by DJ John Phillips. Scholarship awards were presented by Gracie Jenkins, Takiesha Williams, the Wade Family, and Brothers of the Desert.

Janel Hunt, an assistant principal at Palm Springs High School who is also a 1994 scholarship recipient, was master of ceremonies. She praised Dr. Jackson as a mentor while introducing him, and went on to provide an uplifting quote from one of the most important figures in Black history.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” she told the audience, quoting Fredrick Douglass.


More information: For more information on the Negro Academic Scholarship Fund, or to donate, visit the organization’s website at https://palmspringsnasfund.org/

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