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Allen Scholars foster new sense of community

Eleanor Linafelt

Chief Copy Editor

In 1892, Clarence Beecher Allen became the first African-American student to graduate from The College of Wooster. In 1989, a scholarship was created in his honor for African-American students at the College who show academic achievement and leadership skills. Though the scholarship has existed for 30 years, it has only been in the past couple of years, through the support of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) within the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and student initiative, that a sense of community has formed among the current 69 recipients of the scholarship. 

Allen Scholar Aubri McKoy ’20 described the goals of the students and staff associated with the scholarship. “We are currently working on revamping the Allen Scholar image. A lot of people don’t even know what the Allen Scholarship is or who Clarence Beecher Allen was,” she said. 

At two recent Allen Scholar meetings this semester, each class year of scholars developed certain initiatives that they want to work on this year. For example, the first-year students are planning to start study groups, the sophomores want to hold a social event such as a formal or potluck and the juniors and seniors are interested in creating an alumni network of Allen Scholars. “It’s a semester of action for the Allen Scholars,” said Kim Green, the program coordinator for CDI. 

Amanda Paniagua, the director of MSA, stressed that these ideas are coming from the students who are driven and eager for a sense of community. “These are coming from students. As a director, my job is to support them,” she said. “These students are amazing, they’re brilliant, they’re natural leaders, they’re a lot of fun and I see such great potential in them.” 

BJ Gunnings ’21 noted how important it’s been to him to begin to have a community of other Allen Scholars. “That’s one of the things I really wanted and needed as far as a connection to people of color outside of the general social groups,” he said, noting how much he appreciates the intentionality of the group. 

McKoy emphasized how important it has been for her personally to assume a leadership role within the Allen Scholarship community. “I’m really enjoying it, it’s really something I hold near and dear to my heart,” she said. “I’m really enjoying being able to … give back to something that has given so much to me.” 

The Allen Scholarship plays a critical role in the makeup of the student body at the College. “The scholarship helps bring diversity to Wooster. If Wooster didn’t have a scholarship program like the Clarence Beecher Allen Scholarship, Wooster wouldn’t be the school it is today,” said David Newberry-Yokley, the scholarship coordinator for the Admissions Office. McKoy also articulated the importance for Wooster specifically to have this scholarship. “It’s respectable and commendable in the sense that if you’re going to promote yourselves on diversity and inclusion, then you have to have something that represents that,” she said. 

Gunnings also noted the diversity within the Allen Scholars community itself. “It’s important to understand that we are not just Allen Scholars,” he said. “Since we come from different backgrounds, we can think about things differently and it ultimately helps the community in different ways.”  

Looking forward, MSA and the Allen Scholars are planning to work on their class year projects and eventually develop an executive board of students. “I think this community has so much potential,” Green said. The ideas that are being developed and the actions that are being taken by the Allen Scholars with the support of MSA are beginning to fulfill this potential.  

If you are an Allen Scholar and interested in getting more involved with the community or want more information, you can email Amanda Paniagua at APaniagua@wooster.edu. 

 (Photo from Twitter.com/PresidentBolton)

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