Wake County Boys and Girls Club Ubuntu Scholarship

by Ilinap on July 29, 2010

Sometimes I get my bloomers in a bundle over really stupid stuff. The Universe seems to know when I need Reality to slap some sense into me. The Universe was chiming in loud and clear when my friend Tia called me from the Wake County Boys and Girls Club recently.

I, with two other local professionals, got to judge the Boys and Girls Club Ubuntu scholarship. Say it with me: Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an African philosophy that weaves together the ideas of kindness and humanity into one beautiful principle centered on the importance of people’s relationships to each other.

Desmond Tutu said it best: “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

I’m adding Ubuntu to my list of other favorite words and concepts: gemutlichkeit and lagniappe. What a fine world we’d live in if those three words wrapped themselves around our hearts and minds.

I sat in a conference room with my compadres for the afternoon and interviewed half a dozen high school graduates who were eager to win this scholarship. And may I add, deserving. Had I the coffers to pony up the money I would have stroked a check to all of those kids. We met kids whose fathers were across state lines, in jail, or simply eternally absent. None of those kids had an active dad in their lives. I had a daydream bubble of Mac Daddy showering our sons with a rich dose of affection and discipline and was reminded of what we take for granted. How very much we take for granted. These kids all had talents of their own from playing a mean violin to playing hockey. And they got good grades. They were accepted to college (for most, this was a first in their familial history!). They volunteered. They gave of themselves.

These kids are enriching their world. And ours.

How could we select just one?

In the end, after much deliberation yet little debate, we settled on the person who really struck us as the one to carry the spirit of Ubuntu into her college years and beyond. By selecting one we didn’t reject the others. But like with any contest, there is only room for one at the podium. We hung our heads as we announced the winner and were weary of making eye contact with the kids we let down. Our shoulders hunched, our voices quivered. Yet we fulfilled our mission, not a Simon Cowell among us.

And seeing the sheer joy and relief and pride that swelled from this girl, this girl who had endured a lifetime of hardship, we breathed, straightened our posture, and gulped down the tears choking us as if they were tentacles gripped to our hearts. The room erupted in delight, and we celebrated the accomplishment of all these kids. I’m richer for having taken part in the Ubuntu judging. I find myself with clearer vision and greater appreciation.

But mostly, I am humbled, for now I know what Extraordinary looks like.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

IlinaP July 29, 2010 at 9:59 AM

I went to college. I took it for granted. Here are some kids who won’t. Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County rocks. http://bit.ly/aTGV7p

This comment was originally posted on Twitter


Corina July 29, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Tears. Thanks for making a girl’s dreams come true.


Tia McLaurin July 29, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Thanks Ilina! We appreciate your help, Brittaney is VERY excited (still) :).



Heather July 29, 2016 at 2:04 PM

This popped up on my “On This Day” feed in facebook. The teen you all chose that day, is now a college graduate, has worked for a foundation, and is now working for a major tech firm. Her life has been changed because of her membership in her Boys & Girls Club, and winning the scholarship that day was a great added benefit.

Thanks for your time as a judge that day, and for taking the time to share your experience with others.


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