United Negro College Fund disputes OP family's claim about scholarship

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

A dispute between an Oak Park and River Forest High School alum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation over a scholarship the former student and his mother insist he was awarded and was then allegedly taken back doesn't appear to have an immediate resolution.

After a story appeared in Wednesday Journal Aug. 13 that focused on Chris Calhoun and his mom, ChaJuana's, fight against the foundation, the United Negro College Fund, which administers the scholarship for the Gates Foundation, strongly disputed the family's claims.

According to the Calhoun's, Chris, 19, received notice via a letter April 15 of last year that he had received the Gates Millennium Scholarship of $50,000, which he was going to use to pay for college. They said a notice then came via email a couple of days later stating that the scholarship was awarded in error and that he was not a recipient.

The family has since gone public in their dispute, arguing that Calhoun was more than qualified for the scholarship, which targets low-income minority students. They also maintain that the foundation should honor the original notice and award Calhoun the scholarship.

Anthony Owens, national director of communications for UNCF, said that the only letters that were mailed to the prospective students stated that they did not win the scholarship. Concerning what day those were sent, Owens said he was not sure of the official date but that they were indeed sent. After those letters went out, an email was sent to the nominators of 200 prospective students stating that they had received the award. Owens said that was sent mistakenly and was due to a problem with UNCF's database. Another email was immediately sent to the nominators citing the error and stating that the students were not recipients," Owens said.

"There were never letters saying he was a recipient. He only received one letter from us saying he was not a recipient. (The e-mail to nominators) was a computer glitch in our system, and the process was immediately fixed. This was nothing personal toward Chris. This did not only go out to him. It was sent to the nominators of 200 other prospective students," Owens said.

He added that UNCF has moved on from the incident, which happened last year and they they're not looking to rehash what happened.

After repeated requests, the Calhouns had not provided Wednesday Journal with copies of emails and letters they said were sent from UNCF. Still, the Calhouns have accused the foundation of trying to cover up its mistake, which they say the foundation has acknowledged was made on its part. The Calhouns said they had to take out a $13,000 loan last year in order for Chris to attend Emerson College in Boston.

The Millennium Scholarship is awarded to 1,000 high school seniors each year. Concerning this year's recipients, there were no computer glitches such as what happened in 2013, Owens said.

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OP Transplant  

Posted: August 30th, 2014 7:26 AM

"I am so happy my stain guard is in use" Funniest thing I've heard in days!

Average White guy in Dockers from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2014 4:55 PM

I just had an idea - we learn from the tommy defernse fund and have the average white guy in dockers goes to trade school fund. i think our economy is really lacking in people that understand the trades. If a cosmetic stealing mom in forrest park can raise 6 grand, I bet us average white guys in dockers can raise 60 grand - close your eyes and imagine - All those shuttered sears stores saying - United White Guy Dockers Trade School. I am so happy my stain guard is in use

Average White Guy in Dockers  

Posted: August 29th, 2014 4:50 PM

What sucks about being the average white guy in dockers is that I actually had to pay for my college by working two jobs. this is one of the dumbest articles that I have ever read. Just because you are black does not mean that you get a free education. my guess is that we are already paying for lots of things for la-whatever like free lunches, backpacks, free medical, free dental, subsidized school fees, etc... have some white guy docker pride and earn it yourself like I did. it means mor

OP Res 253  

Posted: August 29th, 2014 2:48 PM

I stand corrected. I had no idea young master Calhoun was exploited, enslaved and abused. I thought he was raised in a diverse and caring community with access to an exceptional public school system offering advance academics in which he thrived, unshackled and free. By all means, let's get him a penthouse in the Back Bay as further atonement for our sins. Well, mine were dying in Auschwitz, as white privilege allows.

Huh? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2014 2:21 PM

...exploiting, enslaving and abusing an entire race of people? It's so easy to blame "the system" when you ARE the system.

Huh? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2014 2:17 PM

"Generations of entitlement" I am sorry- but what are you talking about? The hundreds of years (generations, if you will) of the white man expl

OP Res 253  

Posted: August 28th, 2014 12:29 PM

This is what comes from generations of takings. I appreciate this young man's intelligence and academic dedication. However, he is hardly unique in Oak Park. The fact that they borrowed only $13k for a $60k/year school demonstrates they are either more subsidized or wealthier than most. The sense of entitlement--why should I have to pay anything at all?--is the bad legacy of good intentions. The comfort to take it to the media shows an absolute lack of perspective and shame.


Posted: August 28th, 2014 9:17 AM

Unfortunatly WJ gave this kid a picture on the front page before checking out his story, you would think they would have asked to see the letter first


Posted: August 27th, 2014 7:52 PM

This story did not add up as the family told it originally. Not sure what made them think this was going to work. WJ should have shown more skepticism in the first place.


Posted: August 27th, 2014 5:05 PM

I was wondering why the first article was taken down on this, it really is sad that this family is badgering a charitable organization that really does not owe them anything.

John Q  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 4:58 PM

That makes three of us!

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 4:20 PM

Mr. Hefner makes a good suggestion. I'm another Oak Parker whose undergraduate education was paid for by Uncle Sam. Chris can serve his country and earn lifelong benefits.

Dan Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 3:46 PM

In 1968 I was in much the same situation as Chris Calhoun. Second oldest of 12 children, there was not any money for a college education.. I wanted to pay my own way for college and not borrow any money. I joined the USMC. for a two year enlistment. Rather than a semester abroad I visited the A Shau Valley and other garden spots in the Republic of Vietnam. Following my service I had 100% tuition paid for with the GI Bill and a monthly spending allowance. Chris go see a recruiter!!

John Q  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 11:58 PM

So they made a mistake at most and now you're mad that you "had" to take out a loan for your son to attend a school no one made him attend. So much for what you "had" to do. This only happened because the UNCF is racist.

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