WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Chicago Football Classic on Wednesday awarded Jawuan Johnson, a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta, with a $12,500 scholarship, while fellow nonprofit organization Christmas in the Wards donated a laptop to Michelle Johnson, a senior at Percy Julian High School.
Larry Huggins and Everett Rand co-founded the football classic, which showcases two top historically black colleges in an annual football game in Chicago, in 1997. They started the organization as a way to introduce students to historically black colleges and universities, promote higher education and provide scholarship opportunities.
"Helping young people go to college is one of our core missions. Each year we award scholarships to young people doing something positive," Huggins said.
Jawuan's mentor, Ken Johnson, said he lobbied the football classic for financial assistance for the Auburn Gresham resident.
"I have known Jawuan since he was a homeless student at Prosser high school," Johnson said. "After all his financial aid was calculated, Jawuan was still short about $12,000, but this scholarship check ensures he will be able to finish his first year at Morehouse."
Christmas in the Wards, which Huggins also co-founded, provided the laptop to Michelle Johnson.
She said receiving the laptop means no more late nights at the library.
"I can go home and do my homework from now on," said Michelle Johnson, a Roseland resident who plans to study broadcast journalism in college this fall. "I want to thank the alderman and my principal for picking me to receive this computer. This is one less thing I need to buy before I go away to college."
Huggins, an alumnus of the former Englewood High School, said he gave away 18 laptops last year to students attending Urban Prep, Fenger, Chicago Vocational, Kenwood and Hales Franciscan high schools.
"I was asked 17 years ago to do a toy drive for kids in Englewood and since that time we have raised $1 million to help needy families," Huggins said.
Several Julian alumni were on hand to offer words of encouragement to Michelle Johnson.
Taylor will be among the speakers at the second annual Career Day at Julian on Feb. 7, according to Jerry Wade, event organizer and a Julian alumnus.
"We want to provide positive role models and mentor to help the children. Last year we gave out 10 laptops at Career Day," Wade said. "This year our plan is to double the number to 20 and by raising $12,000 from donations."
Students attending public schools on the Far South Side have benefited annually from the Christmas in Wards organization, according to Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), whose ward includes Julian.
"There are a lot of needy people on the South Side, and with the help of Christmas in the Wards I am able to do my part for my community," Austin said. "Christmas may have passed but Santa Claus did not forget Michelle Johnson."