Meet Rochelle Ballantyne – Revised Jan. 29, 2014

Dear Readers,

It is always a pleasure to celebrate the achievements of dynamic, young women like Rochelle Ballanytne; the child prodigy whose story was prominently featured in the documentary Brooklyn Castle.  This documentary examined how Rochelle, along with a few select students from IS 318 in Brooklyn, excelled at chess.  What is even more compelling, Rochelle is the only female chess player featured in the film.  Here is the official trailer for you to watch.

On November 8, 2012, Huffington Post Teen recapped an interview Rochelle granted to Teen Vogue.  I was impressed with the tone and substance of the interview.  It is clear that she is a poised and gracious young lady.  I am even more proud of the fact that she was raised in Brooklyn by a single mother from Trinidad.  She was also greatly influenced by her grandmother who was a teacher.  These strong women clearly equipped Rochelle to excel on a larger platform.  A few weeks after the article in Teen Vogue, she was a guest on The Melissa Harris Perry Show.  Here is the link to the interview.  I encourage you to take a look when you have a moment.

Rochelle’s grandmother introduced her to chess when she was in the third grade.  By the time she reached the fifth grade, Rochelle had won her 1st National Tournament and placed 4th at the Girl’s National Championship.  After these two impressive victories, she began to see herself excelling as a chess player.  Her goal – to become the first African-American female chess master!  How awesome it must be to know exactly what you want to do at such a young age.

Rochelle gives full credit to her grandmother for planting the seed in her mind.  As we know, the road to success is not easy at any age; particularly when you are young.  There are so many things, and people, competing for your attention.  When asked how she stays focused, she admitted that there were times when this goal seemed elusive to her.  However, when her grandmother passed, she was even more committed to this dream.

Once Brooklyn Castle was released, Rochelle’s life was front and center.  She was happy to see how everything came together, but I also imagine there were days when she missed her privacy. She admits to feeling emotionally burdened at times, however she drew strength from each victory.

After graduating from IS 318 she went to Brooklyn Tech High School, where she continued to excel in her studies and chess.  With the help of a full scholarship, Rochelle is completing her freshman year as a student at Stanford University in California.  This is truly a tribute to her drive, commitment and focus.

Brooklyn Legends is proud of Rochelle, and we are excited to be on this journey with her.  We also congratulate her mother On this accomplishment. We will continue to update you on her progress.

Have a great day!

Background information:
Jan. 6, 2014 article by Doyle Murphy, “Brooklyn Chess star battles the pressure of expectations,” New York Daily News
Nov. 8, 2012 Huff Post Teen reprint of Teen Vogue interview
Jan. 30, 2013 article by Nicholas Kristof, “Meet The Champs,” New York Times
Rochelle Ballantyne via The Chess Drum
Rochelle Ballantyne via

Access to Higher Education – II

Dear Readers,

Last week, we shared a list of the Top 10 Scholarships for African-American students that was published in The Dallas Weekly this past December.  The feedback was tremendous, and requests for additional information continue to pour in.  Thank you for letting us know we are on the right track.  Additionally, your comments about the amazing Brooklyn women featured in the post was heartening.  I hope that Britney Wilson, Veronica Threadgill and Dr. Aprille Ericcson-Jackson will continue to be a source of inspiration to all of us.

Many of our readers have asked us to share additional scholarship information as we receive it.  We are honored and humbled by this request, and we will take it very seriously.  These updates will not take replace our regular posts but will be in addition to them.

So, why the focus on Education so early in the calendar year?  While there is no one “right” answer, please consider the following.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the famous Brown v. Board of Education decision, There is always a tendency to think of Brown as “one case”, when it was actually a coordinated group of five lawsuits brought by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) against school districts in Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia.  The legal victory in Brown did not transform the country immediately, but striking down segregation in the nation’s public schools, provided a major catalyst for the civil rights movement and made advances possible in desegregating housing, public accommodations and institutions of higher education.

There are some challenges, and I am convinced there always will be.  However, we cannot deny the hard-fought gains, resulting from the Brown v. Board of Education decision, have afforded us the luxury of contemplating college for ourselves or loved ones.

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The information provided here is a fragment of what is available.  However, our objective is to plant the seed of encouragement, in the hearts and minds of those who seek it.

Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation Scholarship

Amount of Award: $1,500 yearly for up to four years
Application Deadline: April 20 for the Jacksonville, Florida area
May 20 for the New York Metropolitan area.

Awarded to individuals diagnosed with leukemia or cancer before the age of 21.  Applicants must live in the Jacksonville, Florida or the New York Metropolitan area (including Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passiac and Union Counties in New Jersey).  Academic record, leadership, high moral character are additional requirements.  Recipients must be enrolled in an accredited college or university full-time or planning to enroll on a full time basis.  For additional information visit this link.

Candice’s Sickle Cell Fund

Amount of Award: Three scholarships for $1,500 each (2 payments of $750 presented in September and January)
Application Deadline: May 6

Award must be accepted in person at the annual Scholarship Luncheon
Established to raise awareness among the public about sickle cell disease.  Applicants must live in the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut).  Applicants must also submit a 250 word essay that details how sickle cell has affected them, their educational goals and plans to achieve those goals.  Lastly, the applicant must also describe those individuals who have been instrumental in helping them persevere while struggling with this disease.  For additional information, and an application, please follow this link.

TELACU Scholarship Program

Amount of Award: Undisclosed
Application Deadline: March 17

There are strict requirements around guidelines, partnering colleges and universities.
Each year the TELACU Education Foundation awards hundreds of scholarships to students in California, Texas, Illinois and New York.  Applicants must be a low income, first generation, full-time college student at one of TELACU’s partnering colleges and universities.  For New York residents, applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.25 (or the high school equivalent).  To review the program’s guidelines, and to download an application, please follow this link.

Thomas G. Labrecque Smart Start Scholarship Program

Amount of Award: Full tuition (less financial aid) and a four-year paid internship with JP Morgan Chase.
Application Deadline: January 18

Applicants must be a high school senior living in New York City and in attendance at one of the City’s public, private or parochial schools who has been accepted to one of the participating New York City colleges.  For additional information please follow this link.

The Eye Bank Young Ambassador Scholarship

Amount of Award: $1,000 in memory of Christopher Nordquist
Several Specific Application Requirements: Including a short essay describing an educational initiative or public service the applicant participated in to promote eye donation.
Application Deadline: June 1st

The Eye-Bank is pleased to announce the establishment of its Young Ambassador Scholarship in Memory of Christopher Nordquist, who was two when he died and left the gift of sight.  When his family made the decision to donate Christopher’s corneas, he became one of The Eye-Bank’s first Young Ambassadors. The applicant must live within New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Duchess and Putnam counties.  The applicant may be a high school senior, or a student enrolled in a two or four year college or university or pursing studies at a trade or technical school. and under 25 years old at the time of the application.  For additional information, please follow this link.

The Lighthouse Scholarships

Amount of Award: There are four specific categories and each carries a $5,000 prize.
Application Deadline: Undisclosed

The Lighthouse scholarships reward excellence, recognize accomplishments and help students who are blind or partially sighted achieve their career goals.  Applicants must be legally blind (have a best corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye, and/or a visual field of less than 20 degrees). Scholarships are based on academic and other achievements, and candidates are not required to demonstrate financial need.  Applicants must be US citizens, and reside and attend school in any of the following states: CT, DE, FL, GA, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VA, WV and VT, or Washington, DC. Proof of citizenship will be required of all winners.

For an application, or additional information, please follow this link.  Once on the homepage, click on the services and assistance link to access scholarship details.

Milton Fisher Scholarship for Innovation and Creativity

Award Amount: Undisclosed
Application Deadline: April 30

Several Specific Application Requirements:
Must be a student who has come up with a distinctive solution to a problem faced by his/her school, community, or family.
The second option is a student who has solved an artistic, scientific, or technical problem in new or unusual ways.
Last option is a student who has developed an innovative way to save the environment or introduce an initiative that will improve the health of fellow citizens.

This is a non-traditional scholarship focused on rewarding academic achievement and financial need.  The specific goal is to reward and encourage innovative and creative problem solving. The scholarship aims to honor these students and to help make their higher education goals more accessible.  Open to residents of all states who will be attending college in New York or Connecticut OR to residents of New York or Connecticut who will be attending college anywhere in the United States.

For application, and more information, please follow this link..

New York Women In Communications Foundation Scholarship Program and the
Ruth Whitney Scholarship Fund from Glamour Magazine

Special Note: These are two separate scholarship funds, managed by the New York Women In Communications Foundation
Award Amount: Undisclosed
Several Specific Application Requirements
Application Deadline: January 27

Scholarships awarded by the New York Women In Communications Foundation are based on academic excellence, need and involvement in the field of communications.  Applicants can be high school seniors who are residents of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Pennsylvania, attend a high school in one of these states, and will graduate at the end of this current school term.  Additionally, applicants must be majoring or (for high school seniors) declaring a major in a communications-related field, including but not limited to advertising, broadcasting, communications, english, film, journalism, marketing, new media, or public relations. Lastly, applicants must have an overall GPA of 3.2 or better (or the high school equivalent).

For an application, or additional information, please follow this link.  Once there, access the Foundation and click on the scholarships link.

The Silver Shield Foundation

Award Amount: Undisclosed
Application Deadline: The Foundation takes a personal approach to this process.

The Silver Shield Foundation reaches out to every family in New York City, and the surrounding area, that has lost a mother or father in the line of duty.  The Foundation ensures that the death of a parent does not mean the end of educational opportunity.

A Foundation Family Enrollment Form is sent to the family. Once the form is com­pleted and returned to the Silver Shield Foundation, a scholarship fund is established for the child (children) of the deceased parent.  Funds may be used for tutoring or tuition at an accredited college, or graduate, vocational, preparatory or technical school. The Found­ation keeps in contact with the student to determine his/her future educational plans.

For an application, or additional information, please follow this link.


Credits/Additional Background information
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)

Access to Higher Education

Dear Readers,

I hope that everyone has weathered the recent snowstorm.  I must say this has been one of the coldest winters that I can remember and we are only in January.  But, in all things, I am truly grateful.

Before we blink, it will be time for high school graduations.  In very short order, many of us will be consumed with helping family and friends with plans to continue their education.

On Tuesday, December 31, 2013, The Dallas Weekly, published its list of Top 10 Scholarships for African-American students.  Earlier today, a dear friend shared this information with me and I quickly thought of you.  When reading the article, I noticed that many of these opportunities have January deadlines so, if you are interested, please act quickly.  If you know anyone who could use this information, please remember to pass it along.

In true Brooklyn Legends’ style, I began my search for women from Brooklyn who have benefitted from these programs.  I found three amazing women to share with you.  I invite you to spend a few minutes “meeting” each one.

Britney Wilson

Britney Wilson was the first winner of the Tom Joyner Full Ride Scholarship.  Ms. Wilson graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Howard University in 2012.  She is presently studying law at the University of Pennsylvania.  Here is a quote from Ms. Wilson that will certainly encourage you:
“I am a black female and disabled and I take my representation of all three groups very seriously.  You just have to know that you can do anything you put your mind to”.

Veronica Threadgill

Veronica Threadgill is a former Ron Brown Scholar.  Last year, while working on another project, a friend recommended I add the book I Have Risen – Essays By African-American Youth to my library.  This book contains essays written by students who were selected to receive Ron Brown Scholarships.  I was drawn to Ms. Threadgill’s essay for I was so proud that she was from Brooklyn.  In 2005 she graduated from Roger Wilkins University with a degree in accounting and financial services.  Here is a quote from Ms. Threadgill that I found to be quite moving:
“Because I grew up in New York, One might assume that I’ve seen diversity in every aspect of life.  I wish that were true.  If a person comes from childhood, having no first hand experience with people who are different, they aren’t likely to be unbiased adults”.

I am pleased to report that in addition to her career in finance, Ms. Threadgill is dedicated to creating her own personal project that will bring together children from different backgrounds.

Dr. Aprille Ericcson-Jackson

Dr. Ericcson-Jackson is the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University.  She is also the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goodard Space Flight Center.  I could not readily discern if Dr. Ericcson-Jackson received a scholarship from NASA, but surely anyone who is interested in working in Aeronautics would view her as a wonderful role model.  According to an article written about her in Ivillage, her favorite quote is:
“Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’re still among the stars”.

* * *

Here is the list for your reference.

#1 – The Tom Joyner Foundation “Full Ride” Scholarship awards a full scholarship to one student to attend a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).  Learn more by following this link.

#2 – The Burger King Scholars program is designed to help high-school seniors who are looking to start college next year. Annually, the program awards more than $1.4 million in scholarships to more than 1,000 students.  Learn more by following this link.

#3 – The Gates Millennium Scholars Program (also known as the Bill Gates Scholarship) awards scholarships each year to African-American students who plan to enroll full-time in a two-year or four-year college or university program.  Learn more by following this link.

#4 – The Ron Brown Scholar Program provides scholarship awards to African-American high school seniors who are excelling in their academics, exhibiting exceptional leadership potential, and actively serving in community service activities.  Learn more by following this link.

#5 – The Discover Card Tribute Award Scholarship Program is sponsored by Discover Financial Services. The program recognizes students in their junior year of high school who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in their communities.  Learn more by following this link.

#6 – The National Black Law Student Association (NBLSA) provides four scholarships each year to African-American students currently in law school. Each applicant will be required to complete an essay on a topic that is related to the specific scholarship for which they are applying.  Learn more by following this link.

#7 – Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarships (RMHC) for African-American Future Achievers are awarded to eligible high school students with high academic performance and community service as well as financial need.  Learn more by following this link.

#8 – The Talbots Scholarship Program awards one-time scholarships to women who want to go back to school to earn their undergraduate degree after graduating from high school or receiving their GED at least ten years ago. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.  Learn more by following this link.

#9 – The Ronald Reagan College Leaders Scholarship Program awards scholarships to college juniors and seniors who demonstrate leadership qualities in support of freedom, American values and constitutional principles.  Learn more by following this  link.

#10 – The NASA Aeronautics Scholarship Program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a career in the field of aeronautics. It is a renewable scholarship for U.S. citizens and nationals. Learn more by following this link.

To search hundreds of other 2014 scholarships, visit Scholarships Online.

Dallas Weekly Newspaper