The former students of the late Malik Holt participated in a commemorative gathering at the home of former Young Leaders Academy principal Ronn Johnson. MCJ Associate Publisher Mikel Holt created a scholarship for each of the students who currently attend various colleges and universities.
Journalist extends scholarship for late sonʼs students
Following the death of his son in a car accident in March 2003, Mikel Holt volunteered to serve as a teacher’s aide for Malik Holt’s fifth grade class at the Young Leaders Academy for the remainder of that school semester.
Mikel Holt’s quest was twofold: to ease the emotional void by students for their beloved teacher and to similarly ease his own pain.
Malik shared a special rapport with his students, supplementing the educational basics with a strong cultural foundation. As a result, his students dubbed themselves, “Kids of Kemet,’ a reference to an early African society some anthologists consider the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of math, science and astrology.
Holt, associate publisher of the Milwaukee Community Journal, fit easily in the classroom setting, even though he had little experience as an educator.
“We learned from each other,” Holt recalls. “Ronn Johnson, president and principal at the YLA, allowed me a lot of latitude, and I would bring in guests every week to expose the kids to various careers and insightful Black history. It was truly a loving, caring and sharing experience.”
At the end of the school semester, Holt surprised the kids by announcing he would start a scholarship for them, earmarked for all who would eventually go to college.
As it turned out, over 90% met that goal, and two years ago, Holt awarded each of them initial scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000. (Additional funds were provided for the second semester).
“I had no idea how many would go to college, although through my monitoring of them over the next few years, I assumed it would be the majority,” Holt recalled.
During the next six years, Holt went quietly about raising funds for the scholarship. “I isolated proceeds from a book I wrote and contributions from friends and family.
Before I knew it, seven years had passed and these brilliant, beautiful young men and women were entering adulthood and graduating from college.
“We divided the money up based on the recommendations of Mr. Johnson, who also kept tabs on all of the children, prodding some along the way. Ronn would hold get-to-gethers for them, and we all exchanged e-mails and I visited many at their respective high schools.”
On the day of the first presentation, Johnson arranged a dinner at his home during which each student had to make a presentation, explaining his or her career goals and producing their college acceptance letter.
Following the presentation, Holt felt proud of his accomplishment.
From fundraising, tapping into savings and getting assistance from friends and family (his wife Warwees; Howard Fuller, Muhammad Sabir and daughter Radiah Laster served on an ad hoc committee to raise funds), he was able to make good on his promise.
But a funny thing happened on his way to fulfilling Holt’s promise. Between the students’ first and second years, several of the students inquired about additional funds. One of the students transferred to another college in Minnesota, but his scholarships didn’t follow him.
Another’s parent encountered financial problems, which forced the student to reconsider a college education. And still another had to drop a class in mid-semester because he couldn’t afford it.
Holt quickly determined to extend the scholarship to a second year.
And then he started receiving calls and e-mails early this spring. “A couple of the students were in serious financial stress. I couldn’t turn my back, so I quickly revamped my plans again. Malik had a vision for his students, not only that they view themselves as W.E. B. Dubois’ Talented Tenth, but also they become future leaders, grounded in a strong cultural foundation. His vision has become mine.”
Recalls Johnson, “Malik valued education and instilled in his students the value of college, not just for themselves, but for those they will eventually impact. Had Malik been alive today he would have been just as adamant about assisting them in their pursuit of college degrees.”
In fact, Johnson continued, “Some less likely have even began their college careers out of respect for their former teacher. This scholarship represents the spirit of Malik Holt.” and as the principal of the Young Leaders Academy (throughout the tenure of the Kids of Kemet) I have witnessed these students preparing and now chasing the dream (of college degrees). It has been my pleasure to assist in making “The Kids of Kemet’s” dreams come true!”
Contributions to the Malik Holt Scholarship can be in care of the Black Research Organization (specify Malik Holt Scholarship), 3612 N. King Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53212. For additional information call 414.502-0019 or contact Mikel Holt at [email protected]