Group helps young, black mothers obtain education goals

The late Frankie Halfacre, pioneering local black broadcaster, used his radio time and his own personal efforts to highlight those “doing a little good in the neighborhood.”

And that is what I want to do today.

Women Hand in Hand is a Youngstown-based nonprofit organization committed to helping young black women further their education.

It was founded in 1986 by Doris Perry, wife of the late Dr. Earnest Perry. Dr. Perry was a surgeon, community leader, philanthropist and a former member of the Youngstown State University trustees board. He died in 2010.

Dr. Ruth Quarles, group president, shared with me that the idea for the group came about when Mrs. Perry, an elementary school teacher, wanted to help a young black girl complete her college education.

Mrs. Perry would go on to recruit other women who shared her passion for education and helping young black women realize their goals.

The group’s primary function is providing educational opportunities for mothers who want to attend college but lack the financial resources to do so.

Since 1986, Dr. Quarles said the group has provided some financial aid to 125 young women to obtain their bachelor’s degrees, and some have gone on to graduate school.

Women Hand in Hand has created a scholarship to benefit black women who are mothers and students at YSU.

The organization contributed $25,000 toward the Women Hand in Hand Scholarship a few years ago, and the YSU Foundation matched the amount to create a $50,000 endowment.

Dr. Quarles said the 14 women who are group members have raised money to benefit mothers in the Youngstown, Warren and Campbell areas.

All fundraising and donations Women Hand in Hand receives are used to pay for tuition, books and fees for students.

“We ask young women to apply, and we help them by providing some money for school,” Dr. Quarles said.

Its sole fundraiser is an annual brunch, which this year is at 10:30 a.m. May 4 at YSU’s Kilcawley Center.

This year’s speaker is Margaret Payne of Richmond, Va., formerly of Akron, an educator who formerly taught at Kent State University.

Some recent speakers have been Yvonne Mathis, a native of Detroit and the former director of diversity and multicultural affairs at Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine, now called Northeast Ohio Medical University, and president of the Mathis Group LLC, an educational and business-consulting firm; Sonja Williams, wife of former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams; and Dr. Virginia Banks-Bright, a specialist in infectious diseases.

Tickets are $25. For tickets, call 330-759-9753 or 330-716-4020. You also can call those numbers if you want to join the group.

To qualify for the Women Hand in Hand Scholarship, an applicant must be a black mother, attending YSU as a full- or part-time student with a GPA of at least 2.2. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible. The scholarships are renewable for up to four years.

Recipients are selected by the group’s executive committee.

So, clear your schedule to attend the brunch and help some young women move on to bigger and better things.

If you can’t make it, Women Hand in Hand certainly will accept any monetary donation you wish to contribute. Donations can be sent to Women Hand In Hand, c/o 1290 Stonington Drive, Youngstown, OH 44505.

It is incumbent upon all of us to continue to help those who are struggling to forge a better life for themselves. Here’s a chance for you to help your neighbors help themselves.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at

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