Poughkeespie grads get boost from Black Excellence Community

Kharel James receives a scholarship and laptop for use with studies at SUNY Delhi.

POUGHKEEPSIE – In an event planned to coincide with Juneteenth, marking the 1865 end of the Civil War, members of the Black Excellence Community (BEC) gathered in a small convoy to deliver scholarship checks to three well-deserving members of Poughkeepsie High School’s class of 2020.  Two grads received $1,000 scholarships and one graduate received a $500 scholarship.

The caravan included Poughkeepsie teachers like David Laffin as well as Dr. Felicia Watson, president of the school board along with Yvonne Flowers of the Poughkeepsie Common Council.

Flowers was honored in October by BEC where, at the fundraising gala, she was presented with the 2019 Civic Leadership Award.

Sade Sharras, founder of the Black Excellence Community intimated that the annual gala is the major fundraising event for the organization.

Veteran PHS teacher David Laffin, known to many students as Iron Man or Tony Stark.

Flowers was all smiles as the caravan made its first stop at the home of Aniyah Coates, a recipient of a $1,000 scholarship.  “It is an honor to celebrate Juneteenth by assisting the Black Excellence Community in recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of three of our Poughkeepsie Pioneer graduates. I thank Sade Sharras for her vision to create a platform to uplift, empower, and unite our black community,” said the city lawmaker.

Coates was waiting in front of her house on Friday, having been told that she was being picked up for a luncheon.  Several drivers with horns blaring pulled up, stopped, got out, and gathered around the soon-to-be Virginia State University freshman as she was presented with the oversized check.

Ms. Coates will be studying sports management at the Petersburg, Virginia college.  She called her last few months of school “different” given the pandemic and the fact that the physical schools have been closed since March, due to COVID-19.

Tyler Manrique.

The caravan made two additional stops on Juneteenth.  One stop was to the Poughkeepsie waterfront where Kharel James was presented with a check for $1,000 and a laptop to help him with his studies at SUNY Delhi.

James has received high praise from his English teacher, David Laffin.  “Kharel is going places.  He is a tremendous writer and arguably one of the best English students I have had in all of my years at Poughkeepsie High School.”

The BEC had originally planned to provide just two scholarships worth $1,000 each but, according to Sharras, several donors helped make it possible to provide the laptop for James as well as an additional scholarship, worth $500 to Tyler Manrique.

Manrique’s scholarship, also presented on Friday, is earmarked to help offset the cost of textbooks in the fall when he begins studies at the prestigious Columbia University in NYC.

Below, Aniyah Coates, a soon-to-be Virginia State student receivers a $1,000 scholarship.



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