LAMBERT: 

Answering the Call to Nurture Black Scholars

As the school year winds down and summer comes around, I’d like to reflect on one of the aspect of my job that gives me the most pride — and share one particular story that inspires me. More than 300 young men and women are able to pursue higher education, thanks to the more than $2 million in scholarships that the Greater Washington Urban League and our partners provide. Some have enrolled in historically black colleges and universities, others in Ivy League institutions, or other schools. These students head into the future full of promise — for themselves, their families, and communities.

When Myiah Smith receives her high diploma from the SEED School, a unique public charter boarding school in the District, she will be on her way to a stellar college education and a bright career.

Her success was by no means guaranteed. It all could have gone so very differently.

Six years ago, when Myiah was twelve years old, a random bullet struck her forearm. Incidents like this are all too common in Deanwood, the troubled neighborhood in Northeast. In spite of what happened, she is insistently positive about her community. “There’s so much community pride here,” she says. “And unity around making it a better place to live.” The Deanwood Citizens Association, of which her father is president, brings neighbors, officeholders, and businesses together to create opportunity. Someday, Myiah wants to launch a community radio station.

Sending Myiah away to boarding school was not an easy decision for her parents, but the rigorous curriculum and life skills offered by the SEED School made perfect sense for realizing her potential. She credits the support — and the autonomy — her parents have given her, and she strives to set a good example for her four younger siblings. “I try to model compassion, reason, open mindedness, and flexibility,” she says.

During her junior year, Myiah had the opportunity to study abroad in the Saxony region of Germany, thanks to the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. “Nobody had seen someone who looked like me,” she recalls. “The first three months were extremely difficult, but after a while people got used to seeing me riding my bike around. I made best friends with this punk girl with crazy hair.” She learned German and cross-country skiing. (You can read more about her experience on her heartfelt travel blog, myiahabroad.blogspot.com.)

Myiah is a talented actor and just returned from the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, where she earned Best Ensemble and Best Individual Female Lead recognition. She’s also a budding journalist. With three classmates, she relaunched the student newsletter and – organized a student board for the publication. Her Greater Washington Urban League scholarship was made possible by LINK Strategic Partners, the strategic communications firm. (LINK’s president, Michael Akin, is our board chair.) Since the scholarship also includes a summer internship and since LINK is located right here in our headquarters, I look forward to seeing Myiah often in the coming months as she further develops her professional and leadership skills.

I am grateful to LINK and to the other scholarship sponsors, Giant, Safeway, Pepsico, Charlotte Elizabeth Yancey Eights, Heron Medi Spa, and the Sims Foundation.

This fall, Myiah begins classes at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. One thing she’s not worried about is dorm life. “I have six years’ experience in the dorm,” she says. “I’m ready for the full college experience.”

We need more Myiahs. If you would like to know more about GWUL’s scholarship program and how you can help, please visit our website: www.GWUL.org.

Also, please share your thoughts on facebook.com/GreaterWashingtonUrbanLeague and twitter.com/GWUrbanLeague.

George H. Lambert Jr. is the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League.

George H. Lambert Jr. is the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League.

About George H. Lambert Jr. 4 Articles
Geoge H. Lambert Jr. is the President and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League. He has also served as the CEO of the Lorain County Urban League in Lorain, Ohio, and prior to that, the CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League in Alexandria, Va. In addition, he has served in various capacities with the National Urban League, including a regional consultant for the mid-west central region. In the private sector, Lambert worked as a public affairs senior executive in charge of strategic alliance initiatives on behalf of Fortune 50 telecommunications clients. He also served as a senior principal with the Gasby Group, a full-service strategic fundraising firm. In the non-profit arena, Lambert served as the Senior Director for Resource Development Operations for United Way of the National Capital Area.