Syracuse Organization Starts Scholarship for Minority Youth Youth Organization Starts Scholarship for Minority Youth

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Osman Mohammed joined Once Upon a STAR, a youth mentorship organization, last summer. Mohammed was a rising high school senior at the time and said the organization helped him get out of his comfort zone.

“It gave me good communication skills, being around people, I’m used to that now,” Mohammad said.

The 17-year-old enjoyed the activities and the mentorship the organization offered. The organization’s founder, Sultani Campbell, described Mohammed as resilient and smart.

“Even like the small things, like walking to work from the Northside all the way down to Southside on his own where most kids would be like ‘I don’t have a ride, I’m not going,’ and they lose their job,” Campbell said. “But he was making it happen whether it was catching the bus, walking or finding a ride last minute. He was really, really determined.”

Once Upon a STAR is in its second year and now offers a scholarship to help students who exemplify determination, like Mohammad. The scholarship is called the Fallen STAR Scholarship, and one student from each Syracuse high school is able to receive the $200 award. This year, two students were recipients, including Mohammed. The students were selected based on their personal statements and grade point average.

Campbell believes a lot of scholarships are overly competitive and selective, and he believes those types of scholarships can limit students who want to pursue them. He said giving a scholarship to a student from each Syracuse high school gives a more realistic chance for them to receive it.

The scholarship is awarded in June because of  National Gun Violence Awareness Month, and the scholarship commemorates the friends Campbell lost to gun violence. Campbell is a Syracuse native and believes the scholarship is a great initiative for youth in the community.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh held a press conference in May to talk about youth violence in the city. He said the community’s children and families were in crisis after the death of a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy. Walsh called for the community to do more to support the city’s youth.

Campbell started the scholarship, in part, to help bring about a positive change he believes the city needs. Although Campbell says he is excited about the organization’s new scholarship initiative, he also knows it’ll take a community effort to decrease youth violence in Syracuse.

“We can’t stop anything by ourselves,” Campbell said. “Once everyone buys into it, that’s the only way we’re going to make a difference.”

The Once Upon a STAR founder hopes the Fallen STAR Scholarship continues to grow and expose students to new goals and possibilities.

“There’s not a lot of kids that are just all bad,” Campbell said. “There’s good in everybody once they’re exposed to it, but you have to expose them to it. I always said exposure leads to expansion.”

Mohammed is currently applying to colleges in hopes of using his scholarship to pursue his dream of becoming a dentist.

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