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    Memphis, Shelby students honored as Keepers of the Dream

    Jane Roberts


    White Station High School freshman M’Lea Scott, 15, walks through the halls on he way out of the building at the end of the school day on Tuesday. Scott is one of the recipients of the Keeper of the Dream Award during the National Civil Rights Museum’s annual Freedom Awards Public Forum. She is being recognized for the “Pennies for the Homeless” organization she started to help feed, clothe and shelter those in need in our community.

    M’Lea Scott’s young life changed one Sunday morning when a homeless man asked her for money in the church parking lot. She had none, but realized she could start a charity.
    On Thanksgiving, she will give the Memphis Union Mission a check for more than $2,000, one-third of the $6,000 she’s raised for the mission since the man crossed her path in 2010 and inspired her to start Pennies for the Homeless.
    “Homeless people ask for money all the time, but for some reason, something about him made me real touchy about it,” said Scott, who was in church that day with her grandmother.
    “She told me I could start a charity.”
    Wednesday morning, as the National Civil Rights Museum honors three heroes with its annual Freedom Awards, the museum and International Paper will shine an equally warm glow on three students, 15 and younger, working to make life gentler in the corner where they live.
    Winners of the Keeper of the Dream awards are Scott, a freshman at White Station High School; Iyonia Boyce, a seventh-grader at Collierville Middle who helps girls ward off bullying through her mentoring program, Little Divas in Training; and Jack Dougherty, a sixth-grader at Schilling Farms Middle. As a fifth-grader, Jack defied precedent to become student body president (no boy has held the title in the school’s history) and used the post to raise money for scholarships, beef up the school’s recycling program and show other boys the power of trying.
    “He did a lot of different things, but in particular, he came up with an idea called ‘fun night,’” said fifth-grade teacher Joan Donahue. “He worked with the P.E. teacher and his mother to set up games and other fun things. The money went for scholarships for three deserving students.”
    Crosswind Elementary, where Jack attended, gives three $500 scholarships each year to CHS seniors who graduated from Crosswind.
    “Jack came up with a way to make it fun. He almost single-handedly paid for one-and-half of the awards,” Donahue said. “He’s a good, sweet kid, who gets in just enough mischief to have a grin on his face.”
    IP, a partner in the Freedom Awards for 20 years, noted that Boyce of Collierville Middle “has raised more than $4,000 and dedicated more than 756 individual volunteer hours to organizations and events ... and bullying awareness book readings at several local public libraries.”
    This is IP’s 11th year as sponsor of Keeper of the Dream awards. IP solicits the applications and then appoints a committee of employees to choose the winners.
    “They’re very mature individuals, very smart and very compassionate leaders,” said IP communications specialist Amanda Morris. “No one really expects that from a fifth grader, a sixth-grader or a 12-year-old. They are very active, involved young people that for sure provide us a hope and a light about what to expect in the future.”
    Scott was 11 when she started Pennies for the Homeless. The first year, she turned in $1,000 to the Union Mission. This year, she’s already collected $2,000, and Thanksgiving is still a few weeks off.
    “The whole strategy was to allow anyone to donate,” she said between classes at WSHS Tuesday. “The idea was pennies.”
    Scott wrote dozens of letters to churches and other groups. The next year, the pennies added up to more than $1,500, and letters were no longer needed.
    “People just come up now and give me change” she said. “As we get closer to Thanksgiving, people say, ‘I’ve got you.’ ”
    Last spring, she was one of two state winners of Prudential Spirit of the Community Award, given annually in Washington. It includes a $500 check, signed by the president.
    Scott donated her winnings to her charity.”
    Scott has celebrity status at the Union Mission, said development director Steve Carpenter.
    “It blesses us as a staff to see a young person doing something so selfless, and obviously, it’s a blessing to the people who receive it,” he said.
    The awards will be given at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Temple of Deliverance, 369 G. E Patterson, and will also include this year’s Freedom Award-winners — Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland), Earl Graves (Black Enterprise magazine founder and publisher) and educator and social activist Geoffrey Canada.
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