According to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recent news release, since 1985, members of the Young Adult Sunday School Class at New Hope AME Church in Sherrill, Arkansas, have raised funds, selected students, and held annual programs to celebrate achievements and recipients of the church’s New Hope Scholarship, according to Artemeze Edwards, one of the church members.

“Because of the pandemic, the nine remaining church members haven’t been able to gather and review scholarship applications since 2019,” Edwards said. “The church did, however, surpass their $250,000 endowment goal in 2020.”

This school year, funds were distributed to six students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), Edwards said. The recipients were Lailah Harding, Shelden Smiley, Demetris Johnson, Tye’sha Fields, Kennedi McClinton, and Michael White. The 2020-2021 recipients were Joshua Halloway, La’keycia Cleveland, and Arthur Roston, all in the Department of Agriculture; Tyberius Real, Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries; and Dajah Williams, Department of Human Sciences.

“It was during the 100th-anniversary celebration of New Hope Church, that the pastor asked members what they wanted to be remembered by,” Edwards said. “The Sunday School class voted that they wanted to be remembered by creating a scholarship fund to help students.”

The Young Adult Sunday School class was then led by the late Jimmie Lee Edwards, former Extension home improvement specialist for UAPB’s Cooperative Extension Program. At that time, the church had 26 active members.

“When Mrs. Edwards came around soliciting funds for the scholarship, she would not leave unless you gave something or promised to give something,” Patricia Wilkins, administrative specialist at UAPB and longtime friend of Mrs. Edwards, said. “Folks would give something, whether big or small because it was Mrs. Jimmie Lee Edwards doing the asking.”

Since its inception, many School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Sciences students have received a share of the $109,722 provided through the New Hope Scholarship, according to UAPB’s alumni affairs office. The funds have also been distributed to other students throughout the university to assist with school needs such as books, toiletries, travel expenses, and other items.

“Through its endowment funds, the New Hope Scholarship has assisted students majoring in agriculture, fisheries, and human sciences with tuition, books, and/or fees,” Edwards said. “Many of the students are from single-family homes and some are ineligible to receive federal financial assistance. These undue hardships on family resources sometimes cause students to drop out. Students from the U.S., Haiti, Honduras, Bulgaria, Thailand, and Jamaica have received assistance. It has been our goal to help students continue their education.”

Despite the pandemic or any other obstacle that might occur, the scholarship will live on, according to Edwards.