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Scholarship founded for young black men

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By Barbara Leader, The News Star

A former police officer, school board member and mayor of Pontiac, Mich. has established an academic scholarship for young black men in Union Parish.

Willie Payne, who is a 1974 Spearsville High School graduate, has returned to Farmerville to retire and to contribute to the community where he was reared.

“As a veteran police officer and school board member, I know first hand that a lack of education promotes a life of crime,” he said. “I’m passionate about helping African American men in Union Parish because I know that there are more black men between the ages of 18 and 24 in jail than those seeking higher education.”

Payne will host a musical show at the Claiborne Co-Op building in Farmerville from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 9 to benefit the scholarship fund.

Payne has established a scholarship account at Union Federal Credit Union in honor of his parents, Alcus and Eddie Payne.

“My father could not read or write, and my mother had an eighth-grade education,” Payne said. “They instilled in me to get the best education that I could so that I would not have to work so hard to make ends meet.”

After graduating from Grambling State University, Payne worked as a police officer for 17 years and an investigative journalist. He became mayor of Pontiac in 2001.

Payne said that his selection of black males as the recipients of his scholarship is an indication of a special need, not of a racial choice. “When I see black males disinterested in school and a greater number in jail than higher education and not involved with a church family or the community, I see a greater need to help,” Payne said.

Payne hopes to award two yearly scholarships — one for Louisiana Tech University and one for Grambling. Eligible applicants must have a 2.5 grade point average in high school, have a demonstrated financial need, be involved in volunteerism and write an essay explaining the importance of education.

Payne is also the father of two.

“I stressed to them the importance of getting the best education possible because my wife and I understood that a properly educated child has an advantage and we wanted our children to be in that number,” he said. “I want to be a role model, not only for my kids, but for others that may not have had the opportunities that my children have. That’s part of the divine order.”

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Written by Symphony

December 1, 2010 at 7:00 am

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