By Terry Dean
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.