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Local ‘diamonds’ honored during scholarship event

Kamarie Brown. (307637)
Kamarie Brown. Credit: Kamarie Brown

It is summer and most graduations are over. But another chapter of life will soon begin for some graduates—college.

Kamarie Brown is packing her bags for Atlanta, where she will be attending Spelman College. Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, it was renamed Spelman College in 1924 as “a global leader in the education of women of African descent.” Spelman is known to educate exceptional women and Brown is certainly in that number.

Brown, who graduated from Crenshaw High School STEMM Magnet with a 4.4 grade-point average, served as valedictorian at her graduation for that reason and a host of others.

She was the first African-American female to become a student board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District board of education.

Brown has also been an active member of Community Coalition’s South Central Youth Empowered through Action (SCYEA) since her 9th-grade year. She fought for better equity in school resources and funding as well as pushed for reforms that will dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

Additionally, she has worked on a wide range of advocacy and academic success campaigns impacting LA students, including demanding that LAUSD support and adopt the Student Equity Needs Index (SENI 2.0). The SENI is a formula used to distribute a portion of LAUSD’s overall budget to around 780 schools across the district, serving high numbers of low-income students, foster youth, and English learners.

“They [the organizers at CoCo] said to me: ‘“You want this stuff at your school, and this is the way to get it,” Brown said. “You have to go and talk to these people about what SENI is, why is it important to you … and knowing the kids that go to my school, where do I think these kids will want the money to go?”

Sixty-five students vied for the student board member position. Each had to fill out an application, write three essays, and give a speech if they made it to the final selection round.

“With a tremendous wave of change across the nation, the present moment has pushed us all to answer the important questions of our time,” Brown said in her campaign speech. “How we choose to answer them will define our generation. Will Black students matter? Will we fully commit to creating schools that function as the keys to unlock a student’s limitless potential?”

As the appointed student member of the board, Kamarie participated in school board meetings, suggested resolutions, and even voted during her one-year term. She says her focus will continue to be on the Student Bill of Rights introduced by her predecessor, student board member Frances Suavillo, and passed by the Board unanimously last year. Students wrote the bill to help schools provide a welcoming and engaging environment that supports student success and propels achievement.

“My interests at Crenshaw were student advocacy, student government and leadership,” she said during the Greater Los Angeles African-American Chamber of Commerce (GLAACC) Education Fund and Foundation Scholarship event. Brown plans on a sociology major at Spelman and to continue toward a master’s degree in law.

“I want to be a juvenile defense attorney in the future because I want to advocate and be a voice for the voiceless,” she said.

Brown has also been selected as one of CoCo’s Jordan Brand Wings Scholars Program awardees of the Class of 2025. This special award includes one-on-one mentorship and internship opportunities with Jordan Brand throughout her college tenure.

“We’re in this time when systems are changing, minds are expanding, and Black and Brown communities are shifting the paradigm,’ said Brown.

“The scholarship is going to unlock doors I feel were shut from the get-go.” Brown said. “I am so honored to receive this [scholarship], and I’m not going to disappoint anybody. Look out because Kamarie is on her way!”

One of GLAAACC’s signature events is the annual Scholarship Awards Reception, which was held on Aug. 12 and awarded $5,000 scholarships to deserving inner-city high school seniors from Crenshaw; George Washington Preparatory; and Susan Miller Dorsey High School.

Three qualifying students are usually nominated from each school for their community service, participation in student government and/or school athletics.  They then complete an application and resume, which are reviewed by the GLAAACC committee and interviewed for the program.

“It’s not just just a scholarship program,” said Chanel Frampton, GLAAACC program director. “They have to undergo classes in financial literacy and college preparatory courses. They also take a digital skills course through Microsoft.”

The eight students accepted into the program this year established relationships with GLAAACC members and were given access to internships with some of the Black businesses.

“We’re their support team,” Frampton said. “We are really family. They have been engrafted into our family. We’ll do whatever it takes to see that they graduate.”

Brown and another student, Niya Kusher, a Crenshaw High honoree, both had an internship with Elite Auto Network.

Kushner will be attending Georgia Southern University; Brea Barber, the honoree from Dorsey High School will be going to U.C. Berkeley; Amir Black from Dorsey will attend Tuskegee University; Sarah Djato from Dorsey will attend University of Pennsylvania; Sarah Dolmo from Dorsey will be at UCLA; Tyjuanna Johnson graduated from Washington Preparatory High School and will be going to Dillard University; and Michaiah Smith from Crenshaw is enrolled at CSU East Bay.

“Being the recipient of an Ed Fund scholarship from GLAAACC is an incredible honor,” said Supervisor Holly Mitchell at the virtual event. “Especially after the kind of year you’ve had. For you to overcome and succeed in the midst of a public health and economic pandemic—All y’all rock, trust and believe.”