April 12, 2007
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Swainsboro, Ga. resident Shayla Roberts, a senior at Fayetteville State University, is one of nine winners in the nationwide "Words of Wisdom: Lessons in Courage" essay contest sponsored by Alltel Wireless, America's largest network, to reward the academic achievements of students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) across the country. She received a $5,000 scholarship for the fall 2007 semester and attended a special reception at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock where she was presented her award by world-renowned poet Dr. Maya Angelou.
Roberts' essay was selected by educators, business leaders and Alltel Wireless employees, based on her response to the essay question, "Fifty years ago, the Little Rock Nine personified courage and spirit. Today, how will you?"
In her essay, Roberts poses a question to the African-American youth of today and then provides a plan of action for them based upon her experiences. She wrote, "If nine young black Americans can affect society so vastly, why can't young black Americans today who survive off the reins of their struggle, with far more opportunities than the Little Rock Nine had, make a similar impact in shaping the future for African Americans yet to come?"
"Alltel Wireless is committed to celebrating the academic accomplishments of students within the African-American community through our `Words of Wisdom: Lessons in Courage' essay contest," said Regina Woziwodzki, director of multicultural marketing for Alltel. "We are pleased to again partner with Dr. Angelou in awarding scholarships to nine deserving students in recognition of the commitment to furthering their education."
"A half century ago, the Little Rock Nine broke down barriers to better their education. The 'Words of Wisdom' program encourages young people to learn from the hardships of those students and use their courage to create change in their own lives," said Dr. Angelou. "I am proud to be a part of this program and to have come in contact with such an inspired group of young people."
During their visit to Little Rock, the students toured several local landmarks essential to the Little Rock Nine integration movement, including Little Rock Central High School and the Governor's Mansion. Reception attendees also enjoyed a performance by the Little Rock Central High Madrigals and a guided tour of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center.
Alltel (NYSE: AT) is owner and operator of the nation's largest wireless network and has nearly 12 million wireless customers. For more information about Alltel, please visit http://www.alltel.com.
About The Little Rock Nine Foundation
In September 1957, nine African-American students enrolled in Central High School, successfully integrating the Little Rock School system and securing their place in history as the Little Rock Nine. The story garnered national attention as a milestone in public education and an important event in the civil rights movement. In 1999, a non-profit organization dedicated to principles of excellence in education for young people of color was established.
About Dr. Maya Angelou
An internationally respected poet, writer, civil rights activist and educator, Dr. Angelou has authored best-selling titles such as "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Gather Together in My Name," "The Heart of a Woman" and the collection of poems "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water `Fore I Diiie," which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The first black female director in Hollywood, Dr. Angelou has written, produced, directed and starred in productions for stage, film and television.