ALLIANCE – Two Alliance High School graduates want to help students overcome barriers keeping them from higher education by creating a scholarship that honors their late classmates.
Mark Black, AHS Class of 1993, and Kenya Harrington Sr., AHS Class of 1994, created the Catonna Jones and Tremayne Banks Memorial Scholarship, a $600, non-renewable book scholarship that will be awarded to one male and one female student-athlete .
Black and Harrington work as educators in the Akron Public Schools system and have held positions in various districts throughout Ohio.
“We’re heavily invested in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work,” Black said. “We are both certified administrators to focus on equity and to come into communities and help students overcome barriers and advocate for them to have a level playing field so they can aspire to maximize their potential.”
Black is also CEO of Black Spectrum Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that helps students with leadership, goal-setting and career readiness. Black grew up in low-income housing, he said. He knew from a young age he wanted to help students facing similar obstacles.
Roughly six years ago, Black and Harrington formed a partnership with Alliance City Schools. They started working with ninth-graders, helping them as they make the transition to high school.
But they wanted to do more for students in the Carnation City, specifically as they made the transition to college. Thus, the scholarship program was born.
“We thought about those individuals who we went to school with who had lasting influences on our lives personally and professionally,” Harrington said. “We thought of two individuals – Catonna Jones and Tremayne Banks.”
Jones, who graduated from Alliance High School in 1992, died in a car crash in 1994. She was a mother and student at Kent State.
Banks, also a member of the Class of 1992, died in 2012 at age 38. He played football at Alliance High School and Miami University and later became an educator in the Cincinnati area.
“Through that, we wanted to provide for those students in Alliance an understanding (that) those people you go to school with, you may not realize it at that given moment … but sometimes they are modeling what needs to happen in your life to be successful,” Harrington said.
In addition, Black said Jones and Banks served as an inspiration to many in the Alliance, demonstrating how a person can overcome barriers in their lives and ultimately find success.
“We saw a lot of student-athletes with talent, but there was always things that derailed them from going on to college and being successful,” he said. “Seeing Tremayne go down to Miami of Ohio, a prestigious college, make it, a young man from our neighborhood make it, really added that more motivation for us.”
Jones also served as an inspiration as a young mother and student-athlete who had gone on to college, Black said.
The scholarship will enable memories of Banks and Jones to carry on in the Alliance community, he said, inspiring another generation of students.
Black and Harrington will be funding the scholarship this year through the Black Spectrum Collaborative. Their goal is to eventually create an endowment that will keep the scholarship going for years to come.
They will be hosting a golf outing fundraiser on May 7 at Alliance Country Club to help raise money for the endowment. Registration will begin at noon and play will begin at 1:30 pm
Registration options include the following:
• $400 foursome entry fee: includes 18 holes of golf for four players, food and drinks.
• $100 hole sponsorship, includes a name sign at a tee.
• $500 gold hole sponsorship, includes 18 holes of golf for four players, food, drinks and a name sign at a tee.
• $1,000 platinum sponsorship, includes 18 holes of golf for four players, food, drinks, a name sign at a tee and sponsorship recognition in the Alliance Country Club newsletter for one month.
Those planning to enter the outing should send their team name and names of participants, along with payment, by April 30 to PO Box 8855, Canton OH 44711, or Venmo @BSC21.
The deadline for the sponsorship hole is April 20.
Checks can be made payable to Black Spectrum Collaborative. Black said they will also be accepting donations from anyone who wishes to support the scholarship endowment but is unable to participate in the golf outing.
Black and Harrington said they are grateful to the Alliance Country Club for hosting the event, and Alliance City Schools for allowing them to work with students.
“We’re hoping that this scholarship continues to uplift students from Alliance,” Black said.
Reach Paige at 330-580-8577 or email@example.com, or on Twitter at @paigembenn.