On Monday, Jan. 15, our nation honors the legacy of one of its greatest citizens, legendary civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s celebration falls on Dr. King’s actual birthday – he would have turned 95.

San Antonio has fully embraced the day, hosting what many consider the largest march in the country. The city’s MLK Commission is the force behind this monumental event each year, and while it is a massive effort to undertake, it is not all that they do. They’re also responsible for the MLK Commission Scholarship Fund.

Managed by the San Antonio Area Foundation, our region’s philanthropic leader, the MLK Scholarship Fund is responsible for awarding thousands of dollars each year. 

“Here at the Area Foundation, we strive to be the most trusted and impactful philanthropic leader in our community,” said Jennifer Ballesteros, the Area Foundation’s Executive Director for Scholarship & Relief Programs. 

“That mission couldn’t be better reflected than through our partnership with the City of San Antonio MLK Commission entrusting us with management of the MLK Commission Scholarship Fund. Together, we’re helping our future leaders reach for their highest academic dreams,” Ballesteros added.

Scholarships awarded by the MLK Fund help fulfill its overarching mission of assisting students through higher education in honor of Dr. King and his immeasurable legacy.

“[Dr. King] got his Ph.D. at a very young age, so obviously education was important to him,” explained Dwayne Robinson, Chair of the MLK Commission. “To be attached to him and his name is a bonus because education is critical these days, period. So, we get to honor him and aid young people in their higher education desires.”

Dr. George A. Williams

Dr. George Williams, advisor to the MLK Commission Scholarship Fund, echoed this sentiment. At the same time, he stressed that the Fund was about more than just dollars for students. While these are crucial and are literally used toward a student’s tuition, it’s the doors scholarships open for their future that’s most important.

“The scholarship is really … about access,” said Williams, the current Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University. “[This access is] about ensuring that we’re removing barriers to completing a degree … so that we can help change generational narrative and provide more opportunities for students to have more economic mobility as they continue their journey as an adult.”

It was soon after he joined the faculty in 2011 that a colleague introduced Williams to the MLK Commission and the Scholarship Fund.

“In my role now … I get to a chance to be able to really experience the fruits of its labor and the gifts that our community pour into it through donations and the work we all do voluntarily to evaluate scholarship applications,” Williams noted. 

Thanks in large part to the partnership with the Area Foundation, the MLK Commission has been able to grow and expand its outreach to Bexar County students. This has allowed the Scholarship Fund to further the legacy of Dr. King and his mission of equality, equity and education. 

Robinson, now into his second year as commission chairman, emphasized the importance of the partnership with the Area Foundation, ensuring the Fund’s growth in ways no one could have foreseen.

“Last year, we gave out ten $12,000 scholarships, which is significant,” Robinson said. “The role that the Area Foundation plays … makes everything so much easier for us. Some of the resources that we’re allowed to tap into aside from the money aspect, makes it much easier for us to continue Dr. King’s legacy.”  

Interested in contributing to the MLK Commission Scholarship Fund? It’s quick and simple – just click here.

Eric Moreno is a member of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Storytelling Ambassador Contributor Network.