WILMINGTON — Art Brooks’ legacy as a community leader with a special interest in helping African American youth succeed is alive and well — the three 2016-17 recipients of the scholarship established in his name have successfully completed their freshman years in college.
They are Jamaica Chapman, now a sophomore in the nursing program at the University of Cincinnati; Cheyann McKee, a sophomore criminal justice/psychology major at Wilmington College; and Sydni McGee, a sophomore studying professional writing and information design at Cedarville University.
Each received a $1,000 Art Brooks Hot Hoops Leadership and Citizenship Scholarship. The award was established in Brooks’ honor following his retirement in 2012 after 19 years as director of multicultural affairs at Wilmington College.
Persons in the community have contributed to the scholarship fund as a means for honoring Brooks’ longtime commitment to young people. The scholarship is awarded to former participants in Wilmington’s Hot Hoops program who also were active leaders as high school students and, now, show great promise as they enter college.
First awarded in 2014, the scholarship fund is in need of bolstering in order to continue providing financial assistance to young men and women wishing to attend higher education.
All three of this year’s recipients have known Brooks throughout their lives and affectionately refer to him as “Uncle Art.”
“He’s like an uncle to all the kids — he was always looking out for you,” recalled McKee, for whom the mention of Hot Hoops evokes a pleasant memory. “I remember going to the Reds game or fishing, all kinds of outdoor activities with my friends.
“The Art Brooks Scholarship has helped me to afford going to Wilmington College and pursue my lifetime goals,” she added.
For Chapman, the scholarship helped create a situation for her in which, she said, “I didn’t have to worry about finances as much. That can be stressful, so I converted that energy to my studies.”
McGee recalls Brooks as a positive presence all through her life.
“He’s always been my ‘Uncle Art’ and I have countless memories of getting ice cream and spending time with him,” she said. “He has supported me through all my schooling and extracurricular activities, and he continues to give me words of encouragement and love as I face this new journey in my life.”
She expressed her appreciation for all those that have contributed to the scholarship fund. “Receiving this scholarship has showed me how supportive my community is and just how much they want me to succeed.
“I hope one day I can give back to my community the same way it has supported me,” she added.
Bill Peelle is a longtime supporter of the Hot Hoops program and has chaired the scholarship’s fundraising drive.
“Art has dedicated his life to the education and mentoring of youth,” Peelle said, noting he first met Brooks in 1993 when both were involved with developing what turned out to be the community’s inspiring and positive response to the Ku Klux Klan’s rally in Wilmington.
“He’s been an especially positive advocate for an at-risk population as a role model and effective leader,” he added. “Many friends have contributed to the scholarship fund as a means for perpetuating Art’s significant impact.”
Eleanor Harris, executive director of Harvest of Gold, which administers the scholarship, praised Brooks as a “great asset” to the community.
“His love for our youth and especially his work with mentoring young African-American males will always be a reminder to them of someone who cares,” she said.
Brooks was a founder of Hot Hoops in 1995 and provided leadership in developing the program designed to accentuate positive role models for local African American youth within the context of basketball, guest presentations and other constructive activities.
Brooks remains active in the community, continuing his positive influence upon local youth.
“I am very thankful to the Wilmington and Clinton County communities for its continuing support of our Hot Hoops program under the direction of Eleanor Harris,” Brooks said, noting “it is a real honor” to have his name attached to the scholarship.
“It is truly gratifying that this scholarship will continue to assist our Hot Hoops participants — like it did for Jamaica, Cheyann and Sydni this past year — with their college education,” he added.
Persons interested in contributing to the scholarship fund can send their gift to: Harvest of Gold, Art Brooks Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1061, Wilmington, OH 45177.