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Graduates of black schools honored at jazz lunch

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Inter-Alumni sponsored its eighth annual Scholarship Jazz Brunch June 8 at the Suncoast.

“The organization’s goal was to bring people together to celebrate the contributions of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) graduates,” said Peggy Selma, principal of the 100 Academy of Excellence and an HBCU graduate.

Master of ceremonies Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly is one of many success stories from HBCU schools. He stressed to young people the importance of education and how it has been the key to his success.

One of several educators honored is another role model for success: 84-year-old Stella Mason Parson, the first African-American to graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno. To earn money she took a job as a maid.

Her employer was so impressed with her work ethic, she arranged for Parson to get a scholarship to the university. She spent the harsh winters there with no coat. She would not let the hardships deter her goal of being an educator, and she now has a school named in her honor.

She and her husband raised three children, all college graduates. All of her children and grandchildren graduated from HBCUs.

Billie Rayford, a retired associate superintendent of the Clark County School District, was also honored for her commitment to education.

A graduate of Abilene Christian University, Rayford rose through the ranks in Clark County. She chaired committees and created educational programs for organizations such as the Links, National Association of Women Business Owners and many more.

She will serve as a summer youth instructor at Zion National Park in Utah this summer. She described Parson as a trailblazer.

Dr. Harvey Williams, president of the local UNCF, is recovering from a stroke. However, it has not slowed him down.

“We are committed to fulfilling the dream of all students who have a desire to attend the college or university of their choice,” he said.

Williams said that the UNCF has enabled more than 60,000 students to go to a college or university.

The group’s vice president, Alberta Mitchell, said the key to education is to raise funds and that is why these types of events are important for alumni and the community to support.

“We must keep raising funds to keep the doors open,” added Williams. Williams and his son both graduated from HBCUs.

National UNCF Director Sam Burston was on hand from Atlanta. Burston told the crowd that the UNCF has raised more than $3.6 billion to help HBCUs.

Guests at the event included Las Vegas Links President Marian Thomas, Dr. Ken Williams, Monroe Mitchell, Anna Bailey, Kim Bailey Turdeau, Ida Gaines, Lois Bolden, Detroit Connection President Christy Cason, Barbara Kirkland, Dr. Payton Cook, Lillian McMorris, Ruby Garland, Carlean Williams, Beverly Dabney and Juanita Williams

Entertainment was by saxophonist Adrian Burse.

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