Local 12 News: ‘It’s changing my life’: Ten students awarded Marian Spencer Scholarships

Scholarship honors legacy of a former civil right leader and UC alum

Benya Coleman really is a Bearcat.

The recent graduate of Hughes STEM High School spoke with Local 12 News reporter Jenna Cisneros about her award of the Marian Spencer Scholarship to attend the University of Cincinnati this fall.

She plans to study medical sciences in the UC College of Medicine and hopes someday to be an obstetrician.

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.

Benya Coleman in graduation apparel.

Benya Coleman in graduation apparel.

As a Black student in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Spencer 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.

“It's a really big deal,” Coleman a bit teary-eyed told Local 12 News. “I'm beyond grateful right now, and I cannot wait to see what this scholarship is going to open up for me.”

UC’s has invested $6 million into the Marian Spencer Scholarship thanks to a donor and matching UC funds. The first 10 Spencer Scholars — students from Cincinnati Public Schools — will start at UC this fall. Within four years, 40 Spencer Scholars will be enrolled on a full academic scholarship at UC.

These efforts and many others are creating a pipeline of students who are entering UC from Cincinnati Public Schools. The latest figures show about a 14% increase in applications from CPS students.

“The 10 students that were selected all embody Marian Spencer to the fullest,” explains Cindy Jones, director of UC’s Marian Spencer Scholars program, to Local 12 News viewers. “Benya Coleman, she's just one, but all 10 have equally powerful stories. Stories that detail barriers, but also stories that detail resilience.”

Listen to the Local 12 News story online.

Learn more about Benya Coleman online.

Learn more about our Marian Spencer Scholars.

Featured image of Benya Coleman and her mother, Terry Adams, being interviewed by Local 12 News journalist Jenna Cisneros. Photo submitted.