ACT-SO Students Get Good Money Going for the Gold
By Dianne Anderson
Exceptional students that make it through the local NAACP Riverside Branch ACT-SO annual competition is a huge event in and of itself, but for recent scholarship winners, the $2,500 to $5,000 is just more icing on the cake.
ACT-SO students won’t be able to physically go to the coveted national convention for obvious pandemic reasons this year, but they continue preparing to compete virtually to take home the gold in their respective fields of expertise.
The time-honored youth tradition for the NAACP, the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, is all the more special this year. It includes the 2021 Waudier Rucker-Hughes STEM Scholarship.
NAACP Riverside Branch President Dr. Regina Patton Stell believes that her lifelong friend is looking down from heaven, thrilled with the funding that supports local scholars in her name.
Ms. Hughes was a staunch social justice activist and educator from the early 1960s, and continued to serve two decades at the helm of the local branch NAACP.
“I am sure that Woodie is smiling and so tickled about this distribution of scholarships to young people because her highest priority was to encourage our youth to go forward, succeed, and become civil rights activists to help another young person to achieve… she always echoed ‘each one teach one’ and ‘be the change that’s needed to make things better.’ She is quite pleased, trust me,” said Dr. Patton Stell, whose friendship with Ms. Rucker Hughes spanned well over 40 years.
Award recipient David Ifediba, 22, said he plans to spend all of his scholarship money in one place – to help with his graduate studies.
Ifediba graduated from UC Riverside with his Bachelor’s in psychology, and is now pursuing his Master’s degree in school psychology.
“It’s meant to be used for my education, and that’s what’s going to pay me back more,” said Ifediba, who received $5,000 toward his MS Clinical Program.
Currently, Ifediba is also a substitute teacher for grades six through eight in Los Angeles.
But his academic journey hasn’t always been smooth. He started out as a biology major headed toward finishing up pre-med classes. While doing a stint as an intern tutor, he met Prof. Dr. Carolyn Murray at her STEM Academy helping sixth through ninth graders with math and science.
That alliance changed his direction.
“I was focused on being a doctor, but I got interested in research through her, and researching the effects of discrimination in the African American community, and the health effects on that,” he said.
STEM is related to psychology for its science, social psychology and neuroscience components. He said the impact of discrimination goes hand in hand with what people see and perceive in the brain, and also affects physical health.
He said Dr. Murray provided a great support system while he stayed focused on how to get ahead.
“I figured I could leverage the people who I knew in my pre-med background into my research and the psychology that I did at UCR. It made my transition easier,” he said.
Ifediba also spent time at a UC Berkeley summer program on educational psychology, researching the effects of school programs on parent perception of school. That was when he decided to pursue school psychology as a career to change the far-reaching negative impact of racism in education.
“After my Master’s, I want to get a Ph.D. in educational research. My goal is to hopefully become a director to impact change within the school system, especially within the Los Angeles area where I teach,” he said
For UCR Freshman Bria Fielder, her $5,000 scholarship award also comes in handy to cover summer classes so she can get ahead academically, and make more time for her to volunteer in hospitals and clinics.
In the fall, Fielder, 18, enters her sophomore year. Once she solidifies her major in biological sciences and minor in Spanish, she plans for medical school. For years, she has volunteered behind the scenes at the local Riverside NAACP branch.
She said participating in ACT-SO has helped her in many ways.
“It’s connected me with more people, some who won the scholarship have similar fields and the same aspirations and goals. It was nice to see other young Black leaders in the community,” she said.
On her path to becoming an OB/GYN doctor, she knows that navigating a predominantly white male field has its challenges. At times, she encounters those who do a double-take when she’s around.
Especially for students of color, she recommends they press on.
“It feels like you always have to prove yourself. Don’t listen to any outside noise” she said. “Have your goals and do everything you have to do to achieve them go hard in school. Your success will speak for itself when you walk across that stage with that degree.”
For more information on the Riverside ACT-SO