About 500 people throughout the community participated in the NAACP’s 40th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet Friday night at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
The event theme was “NAACP: An Advocate for Everyone’s Civil Rights.”
“Our focus is civil rights, but it’s more so about community outreach as well,” said TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, Killeen Branch NAACP president.
Attendees were formally dressed, dined on roast sirloin and baked chicken and watched entertainment by the Karar Praise Dancers.
But the main purpose of the event was to award scholarships to seven high school students from the Killeen and Copperas Cove school districts.
“It’s a great honor, and I’m glad I was given this opportunity,” said Lauren Finley, 17.
The Harker Heights senior was awarded a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the First National Bank Texas and Fort Hood National Bank. She will be attending the University of Central Florida to pursue her dream of becoming a dermatologist. “I’ve always had skin conditions so I would like to help others growing up with the same problem.”
Her school counselor prompted her participation in the NAACP scholarship program, she said.
Dominique Pettway, 17, of Killeen High School also got a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by Dr. Lavelle Ford to assist her at Lamar University in Beaumont to double major in psychology and Spanish.
“It’s exciting and humbling and I am very appreciative of it,” she said.
One student got a surprise $500 donation from Prestige Real Estate on top of her scholarship award.
“It was a huge surprise, and I am very happy and thankful,” said Bernadette Johnson, 17. Extraco Bank sponsored her scholarship.
“When I first found out I was so thrilled,” she said. “All this hard work that I had been doing paid off and I was glad I got the support from my community.”
The Killeen High School senior will be attending Texas A&M Commerce to study general biology.
Other scholarship recipients were Jasmine Wingate, 18, of Shoemaker High School, Talia Tunstill, 17, of Ellison High School, and Kanisha Tarrant, 17, of Copperas Cove High School. The Yahweh Beauty School also presented a nearly $8,000 scholarship to Bobbi McCoy, 18, of Killeen High School so that she could attend the beauty school to study cosmetology.
Several community leaders thanked the NAACP for serving the public.
“I’ve prayed a lot about what to share,” said Carlyle Walton, CEO and president of Metroplex Health Systems. He gave the keynote address, which participants called very inspirational. He dubbed the speech “Passport to Prosperity,” and the British Guiana native shared the story of how he became an American citizen.
“It’s about not only the literal citizenship but the citizens that matter the most,” he said. “That’s focusing on our spirituality and how we can make it a better place.”
The NACCP also recognized this year’s community partners: Killeen Parks and Recreation, Toyota of Killeen, the Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church and Walmart.