By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, mgray@afro.com

Twenty three scholarships were awarded to students in the Prince

George’s County’s District 8 area during the annual Empowering Future Leaders Scholarship Breakfast for the 2019-2020 academic year on June 13 at the Harborside Hotel in Oxon Hill.

(left to right): Deborah Harris (Coalition member) , Dr. Valencia Campbell (Coalition President), MD State Senator Obie Patterson, Evelyn Anderson, Oxon Hill High School Honoree, Duke Haggins (Coalition member) Representative from Congressman Ben Cardin’s office, Rachel Jones, and Tiffany Hannon , Representative from Congressman Anthony Brown’s office. (Photo Credit/Maurice Fitzgerald)

Since 2011 the Prince George County Drug Policy Coalition has provided more than $150,000.00 in scholarships to students throughout the area. This year another $18,000 were awarded to the group of students who excelled, not only in the classroom, but in their communities as well.

The Prince George’s County Drug Policy Coalition is a nonprofit organization that promotes policies and laws that embrace the public health nature of drug abuse. Through its scholarship program, they provide community-based support to families within the County with a focus on students obtaining higher education and living a drug-free life.

“Although we were extremely proud of the students’ academic accomplishments, we were very impressed with the students’ vast involvement in their communities,” said PGCDPC President Dr. Valencia Campbell in a statement.  “That included serving seniors and the homeless, mentoring younger students, working on mission trips abroad, working in their church and participating in many school related extracurricular activities.”

Includes Senator Obie Patterson, Former MD State Delegate Tony Knotts, 2nd from left, Ebony Mc Morris (gold dress) Student Honorees, and Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr. far right back row, and Representatives from Congressman Ben Cardin and Congressman Brown’s office ( far right). (Photo Credit/Maurice Fitzgerald)

The students who have been awarded this scholarship had to reside in Prince George’s County, Maryland District 8 which is comprised of Camp Springs, Clinton, Forest Heights, Fort Washington, Glassmanor, Marlow Heights and Oxon Hill.  They had to provide an official transcript and write a one page essay on what advice they would give Maryland legislators on the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Many of the students shared personal stories of how they had seen the impact of recreational use of the controversial drug had impacted their peers.  They recalled how many of their peers considered smoking marijuana recklessly as “fun and games” without fully understanding the side effects of long term use of the drug which has been legalized in the state for medical purposes.

Students also expressed their concern through their essays on how they noticed changes in behavior from other members of their generation who have used synthetic forms of marijuana.  Some of the students said they have witnessed a lack of motivation in school and a loss of interest in recreational and social interactions with their friends.

They also said the members of the Maryland legislature should be vigilant regarding the research into marijuana’s long term side effects such as psychosis after prolonged use and the health issues that can be brought on by extensive use of the substance.

Ronald Blakely, Coalition Vice President, and Former Ajssociate Director, White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities,. Seated–left to right Ebony McMorris, Mistress of Ceremonies, Dr.. Valencia Campbell Coalition President, Jerome Haggins,, Scholarship Chairperson, Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr. and Pastor O. Jermaine Bego. (Photo Credit Maurice Fitzgerald)

PGCDPC Vice President Ronald Blakely was one of the keynote speakers of the event.  A Tuskegee University graduate who earned a post- graduate degree from Pepperdine, Blakely offered sage wisdom to the scholarship recipients.  The former deputy with White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities told the incoming college students, and those who were continuing, they must become experts in networking to establish contacts that will benefit them after they graduate.  

In one of Blakely’s anecdotes he told students to “stay in lanes” and to resist the temptation to challenge the authority of professors.  He shared the story of how, during his undergraduate years, that one of his friends was so preoccupied with proving that he knew more than the instructor it led him to confrontations that earned him a failing grade.  

Maryland State Senator Obie Patterson and Rachel Jones, representative of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin’s office, presented the students with Senate citations. Patterson also reminded the students to apply for his scholarships which can be applied to any school in the state annually.