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by Chris Errington
Kelly Miller High School once educated North Central West Virginia's black children from so far away that many had to be bused in on Monday and didn't go home again until Friday. Today, its memory is reaching even further.
After the school was disbanded in 1956, an association was established and began a process in 1987 where it would provide for today's youth. So, the Kelly Miller High School Fund was set up.
But with many of the principal contributors -- often former students -- deceased or on fixed incomes, the scholarship program is in jeopardy.
Enter Kelly Miller High School Association President-Elect Frank Starks.
In an attempt to save what for many is a vital means of affording college tuition prices, Starks has devised a way to keep the two four-year, $1,000 scholarships solvent.
He has proposed bringing area golfers to Bel Meadow Country Club for a benefit tournament in hopes that it will provide enough financial support.
Tournament registration begins at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 17 for the 9 a.m. four-man scramble tournament, although those interested can register prior to that date.
Forty-two golfers have given verbal commitments to play. Starks is hoping for a final turnout of 72.
"It is important to establish something in the community for young people. It gives them something to look forward to," Starks said. "As an adult, you know what it takes to get along, and that requires an education. That's why I don't want even one scholarship to end."
Scholarships are available to all high school seniors, provided they fit some criteria. They have to be a descendant of someone who attended Kelly Miller High School, have a gradepoint average above 2.5, live in what was the school's district, be in need of financial help and show a sincere interest in furthering their education.
Two 1998 Robert C. Byrd High School graduates, Faith Rucker and Keith Wilkinson, were picked as this year's scholarship recipients.
Rucker will attend Fairmont State College in the fall. Her grandmother, Jennette White, attended Kelly Miller.
"This scholarship is going to help me out a lot. It definitely would have been a lot harder for me to go to college without it," Rucker said.
For Starks, the tournament is much more than a fund-raiser; it's a way to preserve and make history.
"People know what Kelly Miller was and is today, and by doing this we are spreading its heritage," Starks said. "A four-year degree is a steppingstone for these kids. Hopefully we can continue the scholarships, because they are extremely important. I just hope that when my time is done, others will take up the reigns and continue it."