Thirty Three Years of Academic Excellence
In 1980, the SALUTE TO BLACK SCHOLARS was founded by the Urban League of Rochester to recognize outstanding academic achievement among graduating Black high school students. That first year, 56 graduates of Rochester and Monroe County high schools were honored. In the 32 years since, approximately 8,000 students have been honored as Black Scholars and the program has expanded to include students from school districts in Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, and Wayne counties. There are now over 60 high schools from the six-county area involved in the Black Scholars program.
The program eligibility requirements established in 1980 remains much the same. Eligible students are identified by their respective high schools and must earn a B or higher cumulative grade point average for seven consecutive semesters (based on the grading standards within the respective school district). Final grades are certified by the school districts at the end of seven semesters, during the spring of the senior year. Black Scholars must be of African American descent, in Regents or above curriculum.
The program was underwritten at its inception by a number of businesses owned and operated by Black citizens in the Rochester community. Subsequently, these businesses have been joined by hundreds of other supporters, many of whom provide scholarships to Black Scholars each year. There are a number of scholarships, both local and national, that are available only to Urban League of Rochester Black Scholars. These can be one-time awards or renewable over four years. Several colleges also guarantee financial assistance to Black Scholars.
The highlight of the program is the annual Black Scholars Recognition Dinner, which is held each June where each Black Scholar is recognized and over $2.5 million in college scholarships is presented to a number of the Scholars. In 2011, the program hit a record high of $4.2 million in scholarships, made possible due to the number of scholars meeting the admissions criteria for merit based scholarships.
In 1985, the Urban League introduced the Early Recognition component of the program. Its ultimate goal is to cultivate students well before their senior year so that they can be recognized as Black Scholars when they graduate. Grades are un-weighted.
Early Recognition honors students for the following grades earned in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades:
9th graders must achieve a GPA of a "C+" (2.75) or better GPA for 2 semesters
10th graders must achieve a" B- " (2.85) or better GPA for 4 semesters
11th graders must achieve a "B" (2.95) or better GPA for 6 semesters
In 27 years, more than 29,000 students have participated in the Early Recognition component. The Early Recognition program also provides many services for future college students. Some of the services consist of workshops dealing with the admissions process, interview skills, scholarship assistance, SAT resources, college fair information, and financial aid information.