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Meet Jerron Hawkins of Reach Foundation in At Large

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jerron Hawkins.

Jerron, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve honestly wanted to establish some form of charity or entity to give back for years now. In the case of Reach, during my time at Howard, I was blessed to be on a full academic scholarship. When a student has more than enough aid to cover the cost of attendance, the excess aid will be refunded to that student in the form of a refund check. Since my freshman year, I was the recipient of a refund check every semester until I graduated. During my freshman year, my friends were paying out of pocket, and I overheard the uncomfortable conversations and saw the looks of frustration and stress.

At that point, I said that I was going to give some money away and unfortunately time passed and finally over the summer of 2018 on a day off from my internship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, I sat down in the ILAB (Information Lab) at Howard University and wrote the application for what was supposed to be a one time scholarship, “Reach Scholarship,” but I believe that God had more in store. That one time scholarship turned into what you see today, Reach Foundation, Inc.

As Reach started to deepen its impact within the community, more people took notice, and as a result aided us in our mission. They supported us through monetary donations, volunteer service hours, and even DMs on Instagram conveying sentiments of encouragement. This journey has rewarded me by knowing I am making a difference in the community, and paying homage to my mentor, Barack Obama, by being the change that I want to see.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road at all honestly, and we (the Reach team) have been met with a lot of opposition along the way. When I first decided to start Reach, a lot of people told me “it won’t work,” “you shouldn’t be starting a non-profit” before you graduate,” etc. For me, the answer was clear, the longer I took . . . the worse the issues got.

Funding has been a huge struggle, since its inception, Reach has been self-funded, from our scholarships to our operational budget. I used my refund checks, donations, and some of my paycheck to keep Reach afloat.

We’ve currently given out over $5,000 worth of scholarship money and have never gotten a donation over $1,000. Actually, we’ve only gotten one donation for $1,000. It is a blessing that we’ve been able to sustain ourselves. However, as our scope of impact grows, so does the need for resources to be able to sustain the work that we’re doing. We currently offer two scholarship programs (One for Howard students and one for minority students), we’re fundraising to build a school in Senegal, we have an internship program (we actually just had our first intern this past summer and she loved it), a mentorship program, and we like to do service work overall. We have donated to other scholarship funds as an entity, we do service work in different locations, such as LA for example. This summer, my friend and myself partnered together to serve bagged lunches to 500 people in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, and we look to do more service work in the future. We were able to fundraise over $1,000 in two days to support our efforts to feed the Skid Row community, and I would do it all over again if I could.

Please tell us about Reach Foundation.
Purpose: Reach Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to disrupt negative cycles and establish a productive and uplifting culture for collegiate minorities. We accomplish this by providing scholarships, facilitating mentorship, offering information on maintaining health and wellness, and highlighting the impact that minority college students have on college campuses and in communities.

All in all Reach has five key divisions as it stands today: Scholarship & Awards, Education, Mentorship, Health & Wellness, and Social Action. We have two active scholarships: Reach Scholarship: two $500 semesterly scholarships for Howard students; Pull Scholarship: A $1,000 Annual scholarship for a minority student. We’re raising money to build a school in Senegal, we do have a long way to go. We conduct a book giveaway every Black History Month that we refer to as the “Read in Color” giveaway. We find a minority author and partner with them to give out a select amount of autographed books. As a foundation, we pay for these books and we do this to not only support the author through marketing, but we want to support the authors we partner with economically as well. We developed a voter resource guide that we sent out for the purpose of getting people registered to vote. We’ve honestly been blessed to have been able to do so much and truly make an impact.

We started with the goal to uplift the stories and efforts of collegiate minorities and, while we still do serve collegiate minorities, we realize that young BIPOC needs support everywhere, not just those in college. I’m most proud of our resilience. We haven’t any super large donations nor do we have a crazy amount of resources, but we’ve still been able to stay afloat and make an impact in our community. I truly believe is an organization for the community by the community.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Harrison Morrow – COO – From the onset, he has aided me in running Reach. Focusing on the operations so that I can focus on expansion and development.

Ray Duncan – Secretary of the Board – One of my really close friends that I trust with my life. She serves as a Board Member.

Brionee Hall-Anderson – VP of Mentorship – Mentorship is something that is near and dear to my heart, and it was tough to trust this division with someone else, but I am grateful that I did. Had it not been for COVID-19, we would’ve been able to hold more in person events.

NyaSimone Caldwell – Assistant VP of Mentorship

Francis Hawkins – VP of Scholarships and Awards

Kayla Norman – Social Media Manager

Blake Archer – Board Member
Jason Harris – Board Member
Julissa Gearing – Board Member

Abisola Atilola – When Reach first started, she literally helped to build the entire marketing framework of the organization and helped to get us off the grand. She’s no longer with us but I’m both proud and appreciative of her and the energy she brought to Reach.

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