The best way to describe the 47th annual Need Benefit Dinner-themed “Leading the Way” is you had to be there.

SHINING STARS— Anthony Hawkins, Royce Tipper and Malik Johnson.

On March 15 at the Pittsburgh Hilton, more than 900 guests were there and witnessed 42 students receive over $200,000 in scholarships. The deserving students represented the region, not just the city of Pittsburgh.

This year’s recipient of the Rho Boule (Sigma Pi Phi) $20,000 ($5,000 each year for four years) scholarship was Armani Davis, a senior at Steel Valley High School with a 3.31 GPA. His activities included drama club, yearbook, school newspaper, the environmental club and captain of the football team for three years. Davis is the first member of his family to attend college.


With Harold Hayes returning as the perfect emcee, this year’s keynote speaker was Derrius Quarles, a freshman at Morehouse College who had a big story to tell. When Quarles was four years of age his father was stabbed to death and his mother struggled with drug addiction.

A QUARTET OF WINNERS —Toni Burley, Alisha Blair, Taylor Doaty and Robbie Cain.

For 11 years he was a foster child and in his junior year of high school he was living and maintaining his own apartment. After several bumps in the road he raised his GPA to a 3.97 by taking challenging courses and working hard. He also earned the position of student council president during his senior year at Kenwood Academy High School.

He graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA and more than $1 million in scholarships ($1,150,000 to be precise) with acceptance into dozens of colleges. Quarles says he didn’t accomplish this amazing feat by himself. He had a mentor who was an alum of his high school, Kenwood Academy. Her name was Inez Jones. She told him it was never too early to start applying for scholarships and that he was not living up to his potential.

Quarles challenged the males in the room to become messengers. “It’s time for Black males to show we can put together a sentence and show we can sweet- talk a young lady without calling her out of name and that we can make money honestly.” Quarles reminded the youths in the audience that they were dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants who paved the way and they should get to know the giants who stand among them.

It was an amazing evening. NEED President and CEO Sylvester Pace thanked Rev. Eugene Downing for finding their keynote speaker by reading about him in the newspaper.

Pace also thanked his super team at NEED as they approach their 50- year anniversary and their $7.5 million fundraising goal. He was pleased to have so many representatives of schools who not only walk the walk but talk the talk in the room— Community College of Allegheny County, Cheyney State University, Washington and Jefferson, Grove City College, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Robert Morris University.

NEED provides career and college access services that empower young people from the Pittsburgh region to aspire to, learn about, prepare for and complete higher education.

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