Tierra A. Dorsey

By Jannette J. Witmyer
Special to the AFRO

A little over two years ago, Tierra A. Dorsey found herself seated beside then president of Central Scholarship, Jan Wagner, while attending a scholarship kickoff event. Dorsey, an experienced higher education fund raiser and Goucher College’s executive director of development at the time, was bemused that she’d never heard of Central Scholarship, an Owings Mills-based nonprofit that provides scholarships and interest-free loans to help fund the financial gap between trade school, undergraduate, and graduate education. Eager to know more, she arranged to meet with Wagner and others affiliated with the organization

Little did she know that her quest for information would lead to a new job and an historical achievement, becoming the first African-American president of Central Scholarship in the organization’s 97-year history.

“I find myself in this wonderful opportunity that I did not plan. But you know… God puts things in your path,” Dorsey proclaims. 

Dorsey says higher education has always been important to her because it was important to her recently deceased grandmother who raised her, Mrs. Mary Bond. “My Grandmother… And, with a seventh-grade education… She did everything in her power to ensure that I was able to get a college education. I am who I am today because of her,” she explains. “She shared with me the importance of helping others.”

Helping students by raising money for scholarships is Dorsey’s passion, as demonstrated through her exemplary record of fundraising success while at Goucher, Towson University, and Maryland Institute College of Art. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown, she worked closely with donors, and the majority of her student interactions involved sharing information about new scholarships and funding, or helping to facilitate mentorships. The insecurities and uncertainties students faced weren’t in her view, but the COVID-19 shutdown changed everything. 

“It broke my heart,” she says, sadly. “Everybody had to go home, right? It broke my heart that we had students who didn’t have housing. I didn’t realize that the dorms were their home. I didn’t know that the financial aid package included, not only their education, but it also included housing. I just didn’t know. So, I dug a little deeper. I started calling the students, reaching out to the parents, and it put me in another place.”

The eye-opening experience caused her to think, “I know I’m making an impact, because I get to see where the money is going. I get to talk about the program. But it’s from a distance. Now, after seeing it and living it , I need to do more.”

At a time when COVID-19’s impact will only widen the gap between those who can and cannot attend college, Dorsey’s work is cut out for her, but she’s excited by the opportunity to lead an organization she knows will allow her to do more. Central Scholarship not only provides financial support, but the organization also educates students and parents about college affordability and advocates for public policy to improve access to college and career training for low-income students. 

“Central Scholarship is here to help reduce those barriers that students are going to be facing to start or return to college in such a difficult economic climate. We’re providing the type of support that’s needed,” she says with excitement. “So, I’m in the right place, at the right time. It’s a lot of work, but, hey, I’m up for it.”

To learn more about Central Scholarship, apply for a scholarship, or make a donation, visit https://central-scholarship.org/. 

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Jannette J. Witmyer

Special to the AFRO