Eleven high school seniors were each presented with a $500 H.C. Meriwether scholarship Saturday evening during the 32nd annual H.C. Meriwether/M.L. King Jr. Scholarship Awards and Recognition Dinner at Iowa Central Community College Saturday evening.
The scholarship was established in 1982 to honor Meriwether who was a prominent member of the Fort Dodge community and one of the first African-Americans to own and operate a business here.
Marquan Clayton, a senior at Fort Dodge Senior High, is one of this year’s honorees. He is planning on attending Elsworth Community College in Iowa Falls to study business management or economics.
He said he believes that a quality education is going to be the key to being successful. He tries to follow a simple philosophy.
“Keep moving along, keep looking forward, never stop,” Clayton said.
He’s also found inspiration in the community to achieve – he cited Charles Clayton, the executive director of Athletics For Education and Success as one of his role models.
“He inspires me to try my hardest and be the best I can be,” he said.
His advice to students who may not think an education valuable.
“Without an education it would be very hard to get a job,”Clayton said.
Clayton also won several other scholarships including the “Joe Bear” Crooks scholarship, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship and the Wade Wheat “Focus” Scholarship.
Carlos Rocha, also a senior at Fort Dodge Senior High, is going to attend Iowa Central with a major in early childhood development and a minor in coaching.
He found inspiration in his family.
“My mother, Chriss, and my uncle, Joe Bear Crooks,” he said. “My mom helps push me.”
Tiana Mericle will be attending Iowa Central too. She plans to major in business with a minor in elementary education.
She too gets some push and lots of support at home.
“My mom and my grandma,” she said.
She too sees the value of education.
“There’s not many jobs you can find without and education,” Mericle said. “You can’t just have a high school diploma anymore.”
Judge Brown Jr., a Fort Dodge educator who serves on the H.C. Meriwether board, reminded the 200 guests at the dinner that it was also an anniversary.
“Today is the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education,” he said. “That was the Supreme Court decision that integrated all public schools.”
He said that he remembered some of the reaction to it.
“Many people had hopes and dreams about what that would do,” he said. “It’s still their dream today, they want the best quality education for their children.”
Brown, who retired from Iowa Central in 2007, now serves as a substitute teacher in the Fort Dodge School System. He said he met the scholarship students when they were in seventh grade.
Like most students, sometimes that meant a serious conversation.
“I remember two or three of them I had to give a talkin’ to,” he said, looking at the students. “I watched them grow in terms of personal maturity.”
He ended with praise for them.
“It’s the biggest crop we’ve had,” Brown said. “And the best crop we’ve ever had.”