Inaugural class of Marian Spencer Scholars announced
UC officials hand-deliver full-ride scholarships to students from 10 CPS schools
Ten high school students from Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) were the first to be honored with the new Marian Spencer Scholarship awards by the University of Cincinnati.
Announced in fall 2021 and made possible by an alumnus donation and university investment, the scholarship includes full tuition, room and board in UC’s Marian Spencer Hall, a service abroad trip to Tanzania and many more opportunities.
After surprising two Marian Spencer Scholarship recipients as part of UC’s Decision Day on Jan. 24, university officials continued the in-person element and hand-delivered the awards to the remaining recipients at their high schools.
“It has been truly inspiring to meet these students and their families,” says Jack Miner, UC’s vice provost for enrollment management. “Being part of the in-person surprises has really allowed us to see the difference that this scholarship will make in the lives of these students and their families.”
Marian Spencer’s legacy
The scholarship honors Cincinnati civil rights icon and UC alumna Marian Spencer, who was instrumental in desegregating Cincinnati’s Coney Island as well as Cincinnati Public Schools. Spencer went on to become the first African American woman elected to Cincinnati City Council in 1983.
As a Black student in the late 1930s and early 1940s, she wasn't permitted to live in a dorm on UC’s campus. Today, there is a residence hall that bears her name, opened in 2018. The Marian Spencer Scholars will form a living-learning community housed together in the residence hall.
“I can see a little bit of Marian Spencer in each one of these students,” Miner says of the scholars. “Her legacy isn’t just being honored — her legacy is helping guide these students to be the future leaders and future trailblazers.”
The first 10 Spencer Scholars will enroll in fall 2022, and by 2023, the program aims to include at least one student from each of the 18 high schools within CPS. The program is nothing short of transformative — for the students, their families and CPS, says Cindy Jones, Marian Spencer Scholars program director.
“Honoring the amazing students and knowing that the Marian Spencer Scholarship will change their lives truly fills me with joy and pride in this great university.”
The program is the first initiative under CPS Strong, UC’s institution-wide model to engage and empower Cincinnati Public Schools students. Through CPS Strong, UC aims to significantly increase the number of graduates from CPS and partner across the university, the public school system and the broader community to create a more robust, systemwide ecosystem of support for these students.
Meet the Marian Spencer Scholars
Jalen Tucker (Shroder High School) believes success can be accomplished with hard work, passion and determination — in the classroom and on the field. When he’s not playing football or baseball, he’s volunteering at a local recreation center. Described as an impactful leader in his community, Tucker hopes to incorporate biology and information technology in a career.
Brooke Bartholomew (Clark Montessori) is described as being caring and determined. She values inclusivity, “celebrating the unique voices of all to create a stronger and more united whole.” She says losing her father at a young age instilled in her an independent spirit and passion for mental health.
Maxwell Lawson (Spencer Educational Center) is already familiar with UC, as a participant in the Law and Leadership Institute at UC’s College of Law, a program for high school students. He maintains a 4.47 GPA while working part time and volunteering at a local recreation center. Lawson is interested in finance, particularly helping to give others opportunities in that field.
Ke’Ayra Rogers (Aiken High School) has always set high expectations for herself, excelling academically and in the arts — she’s involved in theater, drawing and band. Top of her class, Rogers aspires to become an English teacher to help students like herself and give voice to those that are unheard.
Muslim Khzir (Gilbert A. Dater High School) truly values learning about different cultures. Born in Erbil, a city in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Khzir moved to Ohio in 2016 and embraced his new surroundings. Described as charismatic and driven, Khzir plans to pursue a degree in computer science.
Jaden Jefferson (Western Hills High School) is described as “infectiously positive.” The student-athlete is passionate about helping others, regularly volunteering at a youth basketball camp and local food pantry. Not only does he exemplify the spirit of Spencer, but he actually worked on a mural of her in Cincinnati’s South Avondale neighborhood.
Julia Berman (Walnut Hills High School) says she embodies the spirit of Spencer by being unafraid to pursue her dreams. For Berman, that includes service, advocacy and social justice. She has led service learning programs, efforts to strengthen communications between her high school and parents, and anti-racism committee and outreach.
Sarah Opoku (School for Creative and Performing Arts) believes trying new things and embracing uncomfortable situations is the key to growth. Her desire for everyone to feel welcome and safe at school echoes Spencer’s legacy of the pursuit of racial equality. She plans to explore many different areas of study, including science and math.
Two additional students, Marcus Elliott (Oyler School) and Benya Coleman (Hughes STEM High School) round out the inaugural class of 10 Marian Spencer Scholars. They were surprised with admission and the scholarship on Decision Day. Read more about them.
“In each of these pictures, you can see the pride on the faces of the family, the teachers, school administrators, coaches and classmates,” says Jack Miner. “This has been a chance to show these students, and really all of our future Bearcats, that the whole Cincinnati community is proud of them and rooting for them.”
Featured image at top: Jack Miner surprises Jalen Tucker at Shroder High School. Photos/Joseph Fuqua II
Still time to apply
Opportunities for admission are still available in select Uptown programs until March 1. UC's regional campuses — UC Blue Ash College and UC Clermont College — accept applications on a rolling basis until July 1.
Apply online or get more information about undergraduate enrollment by calling 513-556-1100.
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