Capital Area Council of Churches Celebrates 50 Years by Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. with Scholarships for Local Students

The Capital Area Council of Churches will honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Saturday as it also marks 50 years of awarding scholarships in honor of the slain civil rights leader with a virtual ceremony on Saturday.

More than 100 Capital Region churches have worked together over the years to raise the scholarships, and the MLK celebration also serves as a fundraiser for the awards.

Jordyn Hunter, 18, is a 2021 scholar and is in the middle of her freshman year at Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women in Atlanta, Georgia.

She said the award helped her pay for her education.

“My school is a very expensive school, so it helped me pay for books and accommodation,” Hunter said.

Last year, the council raised $16,000 and awarded four $4,000 scholarships, with the funds intended to be split between the two semesters during a student’s first academic year.

“I would recommend this scholarship to high school seniors because it is really helpful,” added Hunter. “When you go to college you need as many scholarships as possible and with the Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship they gave us a nice amount of money and they check you to make sure you be well.”

The Capital Area Council of Churches (CACC) has awarded more than 200 scholarships to area students since the scholarship program began in 1973.

“It’s truly a miracle that we raised the money,” said Reverend Antonio Booth, CACC member and co-chair of the MLK Interfaith Fellowship Program.

“The purpose of this day is to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. We celebrate him on his birthday, regardless of which day it falls on. We decided to include students not only to remember him , but also to remember his legacy.

The scholarship is just one part of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s interfaith celebration.

Bruce France, Executive Director of the Fellowship Program since 2019, explained the council’s impact on the Capital Region’s community of promising young professionals.

“It’s a wonderful program,” France said. “There are a lot of people coming together to honor Dr. King’s legacy and to support kids going off to college. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that.”

The CACC is volunteer-based, with some members having given time to the organization since its founding in 1941.

According to the CACC website, to be eligible for the MLK scholarship, a high school student must meet the following criteria: live, worship, or attend school in Albany or southern Rensselaer counties; be active in their school and faith community; understand and plan to apply King’s teachings; show evidence of academic potential and financial need; and must be accepted into an accredited college/university.

Nyasha Jones, 17, a member of the Macedonian Baptist Church in Albany, was also the recipient of the scholarship last year.

She is currently attending Fordham University in the Bronx and is a math major who finished her first semester with an Ace right.

Asked about the importance of the scholarship in cultivating leadership in the Capital Region, Jones said: “It was a great way to identify talented young people in our community who also have a passion for leadership and to learn about leaders like Martin Luther King who came before us.”

This year’s MLK Celebration and Scholarship Fundraiser, featuring guest speaker Reverend Michael-Aaron Poindexter of the Baptist Church of Macedonia, will air Saturday, January 15 at 7 p.m. on the CACC YouTube Channel and Facebook page.

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