Guided by an inspired sense of duty to help our people and make America better, the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute was founded in 1988 with the aim of solving some of society’s most intractable problems, such as poverty, urban decay, and disintegrating families. Instead of attacking the problems, however, we sought to strengthen the solutions. The solvers of these social ills will most likely come from the high-achieving youth who demonstrate an ability to lead and achieve both within and without the classroom. Thus, the Institute provides training to equip these burgeoning scholars and leaders with the skills and confidence to function as effective “change agents” in their schools, their communities, and the community at large.
As we begin the first quarter of the 21st century, hopelessness, despair, and poverty remain problems of epidemic proportions in urban and many rural communities. After decades of neglect in a society that is rapidly changing through advancement in technology, science and education, these problems have become increasingly more complex and difficult to understand and solve. They have contributed to a steady increase in the education and economic gaps that exist between impoverished urban and affluent suburban households. As such, the need for highly trained scholars, leaders, and entrepreneurs who are committed to mobilizing their talents and other resources to improve their communities and the nation-at-large is greater now than ever before. Hence, at this phase of the W.E.B. Du Bois Scholars Institute’s existence, it is appropriate for us to reflect on its effectiveness. What is its real value? To what extent are former participants engaged in personal growth and community service activities consistent with the aims of the Institute?
Since 1988, we have maintained statistical data on participants’ academic-achievement and leadership activities. It is clear from the data, as well as from reports from students, parents, educators, and community leaders that the Institute is on target in preparing the quality of minds and character that will be needed in the new century. We find that after attending the Institute, our young scholars hold higher expectations for themselves; have a more informed world view; and demonstrate a commitment to engage their talents in the study of complex problems and improving the lives of others.
Though, in some ways, its simplicity flies in the face of wisdom, our aim is to help solve some of society’s most intractable problems not just by attacking the problems, but by strengthening the solution. Activist scholars who possess a commitment to eliminating poverty and racism are an integral part of that solution. As they mature, these potential leaders are expected to work collectively to provide hope, direction and vision in the 21st century. Indeed, that is the essence of the Institute’s philosophy: Giving Back.
Sherle L. Boone
Founder and Executive Director
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