Since its inception in 1963, NEED, the Negro Emergency Education Directive, has provided nearly $20 million in grants to college-bound African-American students.

Between now and the end of 2011, the organization seeks to raise nearly half that amount during its annual fundraising campaign, which kicks off with its 47th annual Scholarship Dinner at the Pittsburgh Hilton March 15.


“NEED is in the midst of remarkable growth, and we realize that scholarship and grant dollars are only one piece of the college access pie,” said Sylvester Pace. “We are now offering the youth of this region more services than ever before, including mentoring, college advisement in all of the Pittsburgh public high schools, and internships with regional corporations and organizations.”

Pace said NEED has set a goal of $7.5 million, which if achieved, would also win the agency an additional $2 million challenge grant offered by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

“But we’re able to draw on that in stages as we meet goals along the way,” he said. “Last year we got $500,000. We’ll be able to draw down another $750,000 in a couple months, and, if we meet our goal, we’ll get the last $750,000.”

These funds will help NEED strengthen and expand its scholarships and services, ensure funding for its annual operations, and increase its endowment and similar funds to assure long-term success. Though Pace said his long-term goal is to have $20 million in the endowment, even without it, NEED still gives out $1.2 million in scholarships annually.

But NEED also mentors to about 150 Black males in eight Pittsburgh high schools, provides test preparation services and offers access to one of the largest scholarship databases in the country.

“We also had over 200 kids getting internships and summer employment with government and business,” said Pace. “Allegheny County hired a number of our students in various departments. That’s what we’re about, working to continue to provide the region with talent.”

In a press release, County Executive Dan Onorato praised the organization’s ongoing efforts.

“I have witnessed NEED’s impact through our joint mentor and internship program, which brings African-American students into direct, meaningful contact with Allegheny County’s operations and our numerous job professions,” he said. “I encourage everyone to support NEED’s efforts by attending the scholarship dinner on March 15 or by making a direct donation to this worthwhile organization.”

At this year’s banquet, the organization will present about $200,000 in scholarships to 400 local students, with the top scholar earning $20,000, five others earning $7,500 and the remaining scholars getting $1,500 each. Pace said despite the recession, the corporate community has been extremely generous with contributions to this year’s scholarship dinner fundraiser. It just remains to gather more support from the community at large.

“We’ll have a good crowd. We’re trying to get 800 people and we’re around 680 now,” he said. “I’m really excited about our keynote speaker, Derrius Quarles. He lost his parents to the streets of Chicago at an early age, and he raised himself up from foster care to become a Gates scholar. He’s a millionaire and only a freshman in college. So age-wise, our scholars will relate to him.”

(For more information on the 47th annual Scholarship Dinner, or for information on making a tax-deductible contribution, call 412-566-2760 or visit

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