KAPPA LUAU SCHOLARSHIPS
By Damon Peebles
For nine years, since 2007, the Lawrenceville-Duluth Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi (LDAC) has been hosting its signature Spring Party, “Kappa Luau.” Guests travel from all over the state to partake in the experience. It starts in the early evening on the grounds of Vines Mansion, in Loganville, GA, where there is usually food and live entertainment; then at dusk, the party moves indoors, where there is more food and one or more DJs. LDAC’s Polemarch, Odell Taylor, said from the beginning the chapter had ambitious plans for a great occasion.
“The main vision that we had, was for it to be, not so much a party, but we wanted to be the largest event within the Southeastern part of the United States, in terms of Kappa,” said Taylor. Over the years, he said, the chapter has added to it, but always wanted it to have the luau feel. “We were still a young chapter, and we wanted to have an event that we could be proud of, and that other members of Kappa Alpha Psi could be proud of as well,” he recounted. It’s what happens AFTER the party is what he and members of his chapter are most proud of though, and is the underlying reason they work so hard for the party; to assist its Foundation, the Lawrenceville Duluth Alumni Chapter Foundation, in raising scholarship money for high school students in its Kappa League program, as well as throughout Gwinnett County. Working with the Foundation’s president, Arthur Lusby, it’s become a monumental success; one that they are all proud of.
When the foundation was formed, Lusby explained, it decided to work with the chapter’s Guide Right program, and informed the young men that if they stayed in the program, then they would be eligible for a scholarship upon high school graduation. In 2013, the Foundation started an annual scholarship initiative where $1,000 was awarded to 21 students (one student from each of the high schools within the Gwinnett County school system).
Through cooperative efforts with the chapter’s fundraising initiatives, like Kappa Luau, golf tournaments, and additional parties, the amount was often exceeded, sometimes upwards of $30,000.
An additional benefit to the Kappa League seniors, said Lusby, is that they are not only guaranteed a scholarship just for being in the program, from $250 to $1000, but they are also eligible for the $1,000 scholarship, if they attend one of the county high schools, which is based on GPA, essay submission, and community service activities. It is rare that a Kappa League member gets both, he said.
Kemay Jackson, a single mom, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and an attorney, whose son, Mathieu Christopher, a member of LDAC’s Kappa League program for eight years since 5th grade, was one of those rare students who did in fact receive both.
Jackson remembers when she first brought her son to the program. She had recently moved into the Duluth area around the time the chapter was chartered, and was looking for a mentoring program for him. Through a chance encounter, which she now credits to divine intervention, she met a member of the chapter at a cookout, which she inquired about Kappa League. “Two or three months later, I got an email, and then they had the induction ceremony, and ever since then, he was in Kappa League,” she recounted.
In addition to the $2,000 scholarship money, which she said was a blessing since Mathieu is now a student at Hampton University, it was the mentoring from the LDAC members that she is most appreciative of. “I tell people all the time, I feel like the Kappas helped me raise my son…for a lot of the single moms who have Kappa Leaguers, you’re getting that Black male influence that’s very helpful. These boys are seeing successful Black men, who are giving back to their community,” she shared.
Although her son is away at college, Jackson continues to support the Luau, and encourages her friends to attend as well, because she knows firsthand that the money raised, and the Kappa League program overall, is helping to change young men’s lives.
“The parents love the program,” Lusby concluded. Like other Kappa League programs, the chapter exposes the young men to speakers in “every field of endeavor” each time they meet. Past speakers and/or topics have included entrepreneurship, doctors, veterinarians, astronaut, military, and this year they hosted a pair of twin scientists.
“Our Guide Right Program, every year has grown. When we first started, we probably started off with 25 young men, and when we first did it, we didn’t think it was gonna grow; the next year it came out, 40 something young men, 60 something young men, and now we’re up to 75, and we really have to tell people that we’ll put them on a waiting list, because it’s growing every year.”
Lusby says the parents love the program, and it provides motivation for him. “When I can see a smile on the parent’s face, especially a parent that a single (mother), you know that just makes me light up, and makes me glow. It makes me proud of what we’re doing as Kappa Alpha Psi, and our Foundation…that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “We’re supposed to be giving back to the community. It’s no longer that we throw a big party, hurray, and just have a party; party with a purpose!” and that purpose is to give out $21,000 worth of scholarships every year now.
This year, there are 75 young men in the Kappa League program, Lusby said, and seven are seniors (two of which qualify for the full $1,000 award, based on their time in the program). Since 2015, the Foundation has awarded a total of nearly $100,000 in scholarships to high school seniors. LDAC’s Kappa Luau is scheduled for May 20 this year, and Taylor says they are calling on “1,000 NUPES” to come out.