By Roger Morris
Chemours president and CEO Mark Vergnano lauded the "unlimited potential" of six Wilmington high school students awarded scholarships to historically black college and universities (HBCU) Monday evening in a joint ceremony with the city of Wilmington.
"But potential alone isn't enough," Vergnano said. "They also need opportunity."
Providing that opportunity is the goal of Chemours' Future of Chemistry Scholarships program, which was initiated last year with the awarding of the first scholarship for students committed to getting degrees in STEM "“ science, technology, engineering or mathematics "“ curricula at HBCU institutions.
The Chemours program, operated in concert with the office of Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, is committed to investing $400,000 over a three-year period as part of the company's commitment to spending $50 million by 2030 in safety, sustainability and educational programs.
Four of the six students, who were in attendance at the headquarters event, will receive $10,000 each year for the next four years, while two other students will be granted one-time scholarships of $2,500 each. All are minority women.
The four who received four-year grants are:
- Nia Anderson, who will study computer science at Howard University,
- Kayla Bell-Davis, also attending Howard, where she will study biology,
- Jazmine Harrison, who is attending North Carolina A&T University to enroll in bioengineering and
- Simone Josey, who will study biomedical engineering at North Carolina A&T.
Anderson called receiving the scholarship "a life-changing opportunity," and Bell-Davis said, "I can go for the stars and get anything I want."
The two young women awarded one-time grants both will be attending in-state at Delaware State University. Larae Christie will study geriatric nursing, and Jalynn Sampson will enroll in food and nutritional sciences.
Last year's first scholarship student, Iyana Cain, is ready to begin her sophomore year at Delaware State. "It's been stressful," Cain reported with a laugh, "but I'm enjoying college."
"At Chemours, we believe that everyone "“ not just a privileged few "“ should have access to STEM education," Vergnano said. "These scholarships reflect our commitment to that idea, as well as our bedrock belief that an inclusive and diverse workforce is a more-innovative, productive and effective workforce." He noted that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2022 there will be about one million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S.
"Now all we need is a few good men," Purzycki joked in noting the dearth of male minority students applying for the scholarships. In his remarks, the mayor linked the HBCU scholarships with the city's annual HBCU College Fair Program, noting that well-known ESPN sports commentator Stephen A. Smith, a graduate of Winston Salem State University, has agreed to becoming the city's official HBCU Ambassador.
As part of his new role, Smith plans to live broadcast his "First Take" program from the 76ers Fieldhouse in South Wilmington on Sept. 20 during the annual HBCU Week and College Fair. "It's the only way I'll ever be on ESPN," Purzycki said.
Vergnano noted that his company, which now employs more than 7,000 employees and has 28 manufacturing sites worldwide, had its own experience with living up to "potential." "A few years ago, Chemours was a great big bundle of potential," he noted. "We were fortunate that people both inside and outside the company believe in us "“ they helped give us the opportunity to succeed. What better way to give back to this community than to return the favor?"