Keith Guerrant and the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund college scholars are helping others this Thanksgiving season, with a portion of the money raised at the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund Virtual Gala Nov. 2 going to parish food pantries in the archdiocese.
“I’m proud and excited for my fellow peer scholars,” Guerrant, a 23-year-old parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem and graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University, told CNY.
“I’m proud of their selflessness. It stuck out to me and makes me proud because a lot of individuals suffered due to the pandemic and what happened in 2020.”
The virtual gala supported the 85 scholarship scholars, both undergraduate and graduate, during the 2020-2021 academic year.
Vanessa Williams, a multi-platinum recording artist, actress and author, was the special guest performer, and Carla Harris, vice chairman, managing director, senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley, was the master of ceremonies. The event, organized by the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry, honored Keisha Sutton-James, chair, Percy Sutton Foundation, and remembered Percy Ellis Sutton, political leader, entrepreneur, civil rights activist and attorney.
Brother Tyrone Davis, C.F.C., executive director of the Office of Black Ministry, said he was hopeful the gala will raise $150,000 for the scholarship fund and at least $10,000 for the food pantries at 44 archdiocesan parishes represented by at least one of the college scholars. The food pantry funds will be disbursed before Thanksgiving.
“That theme is something that has really energized me,” Brother Tyrone said. “I think that has also energized people to contribute because what we say to them is a portion of every gift will go to that fund.”
“(The support has) been phenomenal and many of our core supporters and donors have been just as generous in the virtual world as they would have been if they’d been able to come out to enjoy each other’s company and have a nice meal…That is really encouraging and it says to me that they get it because it was never about the dinner. It was always the program, the ministry and the cause.”
Brother Tyrone said the idea to donate to the food pantries for the Thanksgiving season came from the scholars themselves.
“They are a rich resource for skills and ideas. If we only were more willing to give up some of the control, we would all benefit so much more greatly,” Brother Tyrone said.
Bringing food to those in need is only one of the benefits, Brother Tyrone said.
“The other important part about this to us is that we have turned over the primary responsibility for this to our young adults,” he said. “They are the committee that will review the requests and they will make the decision of how the resources will be allocated. To see them assume the kind of leadership you need to assume is amazing.”
The Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund is a program of support and mentorship for college student leaders named after Venerable Pierre Toussaint, whose cause for canonization is being promoted by the archdiocese.
Guerrant, a graduate of Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx and the University of Connecticut, plans to graduate from Columbia this spring with a master’s degree in Higher Post-Secondary Education and has been a Pierre Toussaint scholar since 2015.
“The Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund to me provides a sense of community and support, something lacking in the black community,” he said.
“I believe in past years we had an extremely high turnout (for the gala) and I believe we found an efficient way to have the gala and have the scholars involved.”