The Carson Scholars Fund (CSF) celebrated 25 years of recognizing America’s future leaders by awarding its 10,000th scholarship to an exemplary student. This honor was given to a fourth grader, Derron Blake, Jr. (DJ), at the M/Y Café at the Rybovich Marina in Palm Beach, Florida on March 23, 2021. DJ is representative of all the incredible 2021 scholars and those who have come before him. Co-founders, Dr. and Mrs. Ben Carson Sr. were present to host the ceremony along with members of the Palm Beach Chapter of the CSF led by Mrs. Sande Constantine. Also in attendance were Caleb and Savannah Bennett whose family funded the scholarship, as well as DJ’s family members, mentor, and scout leader. Principal Chanda Kinlaw of Northboro Elementary School in Palm Beach introduced DJ and Olivia Harper. DJ and Olivia are schoolmates who both shared the significant recognition of being named 2021 Carson Scholars.
While both DJ and Olivia were celebrated at the event, DJ was presented with a large check and balloon bouquet in recognition of being the 10,000th scholar. He was provided the opportunity to give a speech and said with great conviction, “Not only was I selected as a Carson Scholar, I am the 10,000th recipient of this prestigious award.” During the ceremony Dr. Carson shared the importance of the Carson Scholars program stating, “We are trying to create the leaders of tomorrow.” Candy Carson added, “When you get behind them [Carson Scholars] with something like this and they feel affirmed for the dedication and sacrifice, because they do sacrifice. They are working hard when others are out playing; they are developing themselves to be the best that they can be.”
In his Carson Scholars application, DJ communicated, “I am an orator, Boy Scout, and community advocate who loves the earth. When I grow up, I want to participate in the same causes as an honorable politician. I want to lead with fairness, compassion, and dignity like my mentors, scout master, coaches, and Dr. Martin Luther King.” DJ is a natural leader and peacemaker, ensuring all students’ voices are heard and respected. DJ’s leadership goes beyond the classroom. He has been involved in an ample amount of community activities and public speaking events. DJ has given public speeches in the community ranging from topics on gun violence to promoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of equality and freedom for all individuals. He has won many awards and has been recognized multiple times for his oratorical accomplishments. He is an active participant in the community serving as a Webelos Boy Scout and mentee for K.O.P. Mentoring Network. He has also participated in food drives, clean-ups and veteran assistance tasks.
Olivia is described as curious, modest, and confident in her creative process in obtaining her goals. She is highly esteemed by her teachers who say that she is genuine, witty, and well-rounded. Olivia writes well, analyzes reading accurately and maintains a 4.0 GPA (including her 6th grade Advanced Mathematics class). Olivia shared, “I’m really proud of being a Carson Scholar and it makes me feel really good. I really enjoy reading and I get to put a bit of my reading skills into my writing and it’s really fun to be creative with writing.”
During the 2021 scholarship season, the CSF awarded 668 new scholars and 831 recognized scholars across the United States. The CSF has the dream of one day being able to award a Carson Scholar in every school in the country. These students will have the opportunity to be recognized in person in front of their families, educators, and community leaders at banquets across the country.
Please click here to see coverage from Reporter Tania Rogers of WPTV News in Palm Beach.