Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and NEED President & CEO Sylvester Pace announced that $1 million in scholarships is being awarded to deserving students thanks to the early success of the 2010 fundraising campaign launched in March. NEED is the oldest minority community-based financial assistance program in Pennsylvania. It offers financial aid, counseling and internships to help young African-Americans overcome class, social, academic and cultural barriers to postsecondary education.

“Allegheny County has a wealth of talented, energetic and diverse young people, and NEED works to ensure that African-American students continue their educations and engage in our community,” said Onorato. “I am grateful to everyone who has already supported NEED’s efforts, and I encourage others to make a direct donation to this worthwhile organization.”

Pace said, “Despite the slumping economy; foundations, corporations, businesses and individuals still found this a worthy cause to support. Thanks to this outpouring of community support, we are able to award more than 700 scholarships and grants this year. This is a 17 percent increase over last year, or 100 additional scholarships and grants.  However, we realize that each year we are still faced with turning away hundreds of deserving students from fulfilling their aspirations beyond high school, because of a lack of sufficient funds.”

The first scholarship awards were made to more than 100 freshman students at a NEED orientation program held on Aug. 4 on the campus of Point Park University. Many of these students are now attending colleges and universities throughout the country. Alexis Johnson is a freshman at Penn State University, and a scholarship paid for her textbooks.

“My NEED scholarship helped me to worry less about raising money for my books,” said Johnson. “Instead, I could focus more on my academics than trying to get a job in order to pay for my books myself.”

Onorato and Pace credited NEED’s Corporate Campaign Chair Kim Tillotson Fleming for the early success of the fundraising campaign. Pace cited her invaluable leadership and guidance and asked her to continue her involvement with NEED.

“NEED plays a vital role in providing assistance to our region’s minority youth as they consider the opportunity for higher education,” said Tillotson Fleming. “It has been my honor to support this endeavor, and I encourage others to get involved with NEED’s worthwhile mission. Our future rests in these young people, and education provides them with a strong foundation.”

Citizens Bank President Ralph Papa will serve as NEED’s Corporate Campaign Chair for 2010-2011. Papa previously served in this role from 2003-2005.

“It is an honor and a privilege to once again be serving as NEED’s Corporate Campaign Chair,” said Papa. “It is gratifying to be part of an organization that recognizes that an investment in our youth is an investment in the future growth and vitality of our region.”

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