About the Hill-Stephens Scholarship
It is perhaps largely an afterthought these days, but for centuries African Americans were threatened with death for attempting to learn to read, much less attend college. Roughly four decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which ensured the foundation for equality, the African American presence at college campuses across the country has grown tremendously.
Yet a host of the obstacles the descendants of slaves and other African Americans have traditionally faced when pursuing a college education continue to prove intractable. Fractured families, disproportionate incarceration rates, restricted access to quality education, poverty, discrimination, lower average test scores and other issues are often roadblocks to educational advancement for African Americans.
The Deshaun Hill and Harvard Stephens Scholarship was established to help tackle such issues at Harvard College. Though African-American students at the college can celebrate their healthy presence there, many are restricted by issues that scholarship cash can help address: the shortage of money for books, cash to make photocopies of class documents, even the stress of spending a few bucks for a late night snack.
The scholarship was established in the name of Deshaun Hill of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Harvard Stephens of Brentwood, Tennessee. The two African-American students were both members of the Class of 1999. Their lives were cut short when they died in a car crash in 1997, just before the 4th of July. The scholarship celebrates the enduring legacy of both Deshaun and Harvard.
The pair, who were friends and later blockmates, were known throughout the campus as top students. They were also widely loved by the tight-knit African-American community of their class, which proudly referred to itself as "nine-nine." Their premature deaths demonstrated that though African-American men can attend college, their lives might nevertheless be perilously short, and that nothing, regardless of your race, is promised.
In an effort to celebrate their lives, the African American alumni of '99 — now doctors, lawyers, teachers, mothers, fathers and virtually everything else in between — have come together to establish the scholarship. For many of us, Deshaun and Harvard’s passing was our first and most direct experience of death. The scholarship is an effort to assist those living their youth in much the way those two did: working hard, giving back and enjoying life.
The Deshaun Hill and Harvard Stephens Scholarship is a tax-exempt non-profit corporation organized in compliance with Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. All contributions to the scholarship are tax-deductible.