Heavy Artillery: The National Urban League's campaign to help raise academic achievement among young African-Americans has received major reinforcements in the form of a $25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.
Those funds represent the largest donation to the Urban League, one of the nation's oldest civil rights organizations, since the group was founded in 1910.
The league intends to use the money from the Indianapolis-based foundation to push the message that schoolwork--not professional sports, not gangs, not drugs--paves the way to the good life.
And it will provide more than 1,000 college scholarships to black students over the next five years, said Hugh B. Price, the president of the organization.
"A high percentage of African-American children aren't where they need to be academically," he said recently. "We've got to get these kids excited about school, excited about learning."
The New York City-based National Urban League, which has 115 affiliates in 34 states and the District of Columbia, plans to use $10 million from the grant to help affiliates promote its Campaign for African-American Achievement.
So far, the affiliates, with help from the Congress of National Black Churches and other civic organizations, have been organizing youth rallies and marketing the achievement campaign through public service announcements.
They have also begun starting "Thurgood Marshall Achievers Society" clubs, run by affiliate leagues, black churches, and civic groups.
The clubs require their student members to maintain a B average or above in school and to volunteer for community service in their communities or participate in the arts.
Another $10 million from the Lilly Endowment grant will provide college scholarships to qualifying graduates drawn from the membership rosters of the clubs.
The remaining money will be used to support the Congress of National Black Churches and to provide administrative support to the Urban League.
"We need to reward kids who are excelling in school and send different signals to kids about what's important," Mr. Price said.
The grant, he predicted, will spur "a mass mobilization around importance of African-American achievement."
--Kerry A. White [email protected]
Vol. 18, Issue 23, Page 9Published in Print: February 17, 1999, as Urban Education