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Keiona Marshall receives Luther and Mary Ida Vandross Scholarship

Keiona Marshall

Keiona Marshall ’22 was awarded a $5,000 scholarship by the Philadelphia Foundation, the organization which oversees the Luther and Mary Ida Vandross Scholarship. It is the highest amount awarded for the scholarship.

Marshall, a social work major, said she was hopeful she would receive a grant when she applied but never expected to receive as much as she did. 

“I can’t believe I received the highest amount for this scholarship,” Marshall said. “It has strengthened my faith, especially given the really stressful times we’re living in due to the pandemic. Adjusting to the prospects of a new normal has really been a lot.” 

The scholarship, named for Luther Vandross Jr. and his mother, Ida, is awarded annually to upperclassmen enrolled in undergraduate programs at HBCUs. Vandross was an R&B artist with a career that spanned five decades, selling over 25 million records and winning eight Grammy Awards.

Marshall is grateful for the award and says the financial assistance for her undergraduate degree will assist her in saving for graduate school where she plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work

“This scholarship represents hope and the belief that young people, like myself, should continue to dream and strive toward our goals. I am so excited to be the recipient of such an amazing award and the vision behind it,” said Marshall. 

Dr. Judith D. Crocker Billingsley, assistant professor of Social Work, wrote the letter of recommendation for Marshall and was taken aback when she heard the high amount of the award. 

"‘Are you serious?’ I asked," said Billingsley, remembering when she had been told. “‘Oh my goodness, it had to be about the letter of recommendation.’"

Marshall applied because she wanted to showcase her skills and work effort as well as to minimize the cost of education so she would not be bogged down in debt when she leaves school.

While at Johnson C. Smith, Marshall has been a leader in her major, serving as an executive producer of media activities for the 2020 celebration of “March is Social Work Month” and in developing student-driven projects within her coursework including a faculty, staff and student celebrity basketball game. She also led the Social Work Club in a record number of fundraising opportunities for the Dorothy I. Height Social Work Scholarship Fund. 

Though proud of her accomplishments, Marshall is most proud of having had the opportunity to intern with the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, working alongside Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12) and Rep. French Hill (AR-12). 

Marshall says the BSW program at JCSU is tough at times, but she is thankful to have relationships with her professors because their support has been the key to her success. After graduate school, she plans to be a traveling social worker, hoping to travel the world while applying the knowledge she has gained from her education. 

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