Ron Brown was a ground-breaking American politician who, among other notable achievements, was the first African American to serve as the United States Secretary of Commerce which he did from 1993 to 1996 under President Bill Clinton. Prior to becoming the Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown was the 40th Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1989 through 1993. Brown’s illustrious career was tragically cut short when he died in a plane crash in Croatia in 1996. Following his death, Ron Brown was posthumously given the Presidential Citizens Medal, which his widow Alma accepted on his behalf, by Bill Clinton who also established the Ron Brown Award which promotes corporate responsibility and leadership.
Similarly, in 1996 the Ron Brown Scholar Program was established to honor the former Secretary of Commerce and his legacy. The Scholar Program is meant to provide financial assistance and other opportunities to African American students who have demonstrated leadership skills and a commitment to public service. Recipients of the award are not only given financial aid but they are also afforded opportunities for service and to enhance their leadership skills. This is meant to prepare them for years of civic engagement and to be productive members of the workforce following graduation. Ron Brown Scholars have a 99% graduation rate and then go on to successful careers in a wide variety of jobs work in technology, public service, the arts, medicine, business, law, and much more.
The Ron Brown Scholarship provides up to $40,000 to chosen scholars which is distributed over four years with $10,000 given annually for expenses at the chosen university. In addition to providing financial assistance, the Ron Brown Scholarship also provides valuable mentoring that contributes to success in college and beyond. Scholarships are awarded to African American students who are juniors or seniors in high school at the time of their application, are from an economically challenged background, and have proven a dedication to public service, global citizenship, and leadership. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation that can attest to the applicant’s character and academic success, one of whom must be a teacher or counselor. Two 500 word essays must also be submitted, one will answer a specific question asked in the application packet and the other can be an essay of the applicant’s choosing. The application period for the scholarship begins on November 1st and all application packets must be postmarked by January 9th. All required materials including letters of reference, transcripts, standardized test scores, and application forms must be submitted together in the same packet.
The Ron Brown Scholarship has been awarding money to high achieving students for 19 years and has an established group of former scholars known as Captains who are eager and willing to meet with students during the Ron Brown Scholars and Captains Program which allows them to share experiences, accomplishments, struggles, and concerns. The application from can be downloaded from the scholarship website but students must submit all forms through the mail.