UP President and CEO Darlene Sowell (right) with, from left: Brayneisha Edwards, Tyneisha Chatman, Asia Ward, Kevon Chambers, LaShonda Givens, Ashley Lewis, and Rahel Kasay. Not pictured: Darius Harris.

Some 25 years ago, St. Louis-based Unleashing Potential (UP) started the William Diersing Scholarship Fund to help lower-income youth and families in St. Louis further their academic goals. In June, eight UP program participants were honored as this year’s fund recipients.

At an awards ceremony June 10, Darlene Sowell, president and CEO, presented the $1,500 scholarships to Kevon Chambers, Tyneisha Chatman, Brayneisha Edwards, LaShonda Givens, Darius Harris, Rahel Kasay, Ashley Lewis, and Asia Ward.

“Any person who believes the next generation is lost should have been at the Diersing Scholarship awards ceremony,” Sowell says. “Four of the eight scholarship recipients desire to focus on caring for others in the community as their education and career choice. The others want to own their own businesses. The positive impact programs at Unleashing Potential have on our young people provides hope for our future and our region.”

The UP scholarships are reserved for individuals seeking to advance their education through college, vocational training, or certification. Applicants must be current students or the parent of a student currently participating in the programming provided through Unleashing Potential.

UP helps St. Louis-area children, youth and families reach their full potential via a variety of educational programs. Among the basic tenets of Unleashing Potential are respect for all; faith and stewardship — including the power to advocate for social justice inspired by UP’s faith-based legacy; quality educational programming from a dedicated staff; and affirming the resiliency of children, youth and families by helping them to overcome challenges and succeed.

Of this year’s recipients, five — Edwards, Chatman, Chambers, Givens, and Harris — are part of UP’s Magnificent Creations program. Magnificent Creations — is a unique social enterprise of Unleashing Potential that helps close the opportunity gap for youth from under-resourced communities in St. Louis. A complete t-shirt screen printing business, Magnificent Creations produces shirts for a variety of organizations, corporations, and events. Additionally, its limited-edition designs reflect the creative vision of many of the youth in UP programs.

Ward, Lewis, and Kasay all have children in UP programs: Ward’s in Unleashing Potential’s After School program, which provides high quality, curriculum-based before and after school programs; and Lewis and Kasay, whose children are part of UP’s Caroline Mission Early Childhood Education Center, which uses evidence-based curriculum to help children begin to unleash their potential. The program focuses on influencing the social, educational, and professional future of children.

The Diersing Fund was created to help students enrolled in Unleashing Potential programs to achieve their educational and vocational goals. It was established with a financial gift left by former employee William Diersing after his passing. Nearly 25 years later, the fund continues to be sustained by donations from family and friends.

CHHSM member Unleashing Potential, formerly Neighborhood Houses, was founded in 1913. Its purpose, — then as now — is to unleash the magnificent potential in children, families and neighborhoods that leads to a just community for all.