50 College-Bound Whitehaven seniors celebrated virtually for securing $1 million+ each in academic scholarships

May 1st, 2020

Whitehaven virtually celebrates 50 $1 million+ scholars


Whitehaven High School’s Academic Signing Day, produced by Peer Power Foundation, continues its annual tradition through a YouTube Live 2-hour ceremony

MEMPHIS—Whitehaven High School’s annual Academic Signing Day (ASD) celebrated 50 college-bound scholars, each of which secured at least $1 million in academic scholarships, on Thursday, April 30, 2020 through a virtual online live ceremony.

Similar to an athletic signing day, Whitehaven students proclaim their total scholarship dollar figure and announces their college of choice. While, in years past, Whitehaven students took the stage in the high school auditorium to a cheering crowd of family members, faculty, and fellow students, this year’s virtual ceremony seamlessly provide scholars a chance to make their announcement from their home.

“People all across this city, state, and country witnessed another Whitehaven class of children transitioning from high school students to an educated learning force filled with resilient change agents,” said Dr. Vincent J. Hunter, Executive Principal of Whitehaven Empowerment Zone. “Our Whitehaven Senior Tigers will become the difference makers in society where normalcy has changed its face and creativity will be the driver of our destiny.”

The virtual ASD ceremony, which may be viewed here, included video appearances from Grammy-nominated musicians, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray, and City of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. The online platform welcomed a continuous scroll of congratulatory messages and comments from over 400 viewers.

“As an alum, I’m pleased to celebrate the legacy of academic achievement at Whitehaven High School,” said Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray. “I appreciate my good friend Dr. Vincent Hunter and his team for carrying the torch in our community. Thank you to Peer Power for their continued support of the SCS vision and for coming aboard as Change Champions. Congratulations to our million-dollar scholars.”

“In a community where options are limited, my peers and I have come to show the world that we know how to create opportunities for ourselves,” said Keith Newsum, Jr., Mr. Whitehaven High, Student Council President, and Class Chaplin. “We are here today to showcase the fact that not only are we going to college to further our academic careers but we are also going tuition-free and with full rides.”

The producer of Whitehaven Academic Signing Day, Peer Power’s model recruits, trains, and employs high-performing college scholars from the University of Memphis to coach and mentor Shelby County Schools high school students, including Whitehaven High School. The foundation has played an integral role in the development and celebration of this annual ceremony.

“A pandemic does not stop the Peer Power team,” said Peer Power’s new CEO Tabitha Glenn. “Nor does it halt Whitehaven's amazing seniors and educators. This day means the world to these scholars and their families. We were honored to play a part in making sure it happened.”

“The students of Whitehaven High School deserve to be celebrated for their accomplishments,” said Peer Power Program Director and ASD emcee Cortney Richardson. “The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to our original plan to celebrate the students earlier in April. Peer Power could not let this pandemic stop the well deserved public acknowledgement and recognition of their success.”

Of the 50 Whitehaven scholars, the top five scholarship-securing students' figures and college choices are as follows:

  • Konate, Hawa $3,899,712 University of Memphis
  • Kaloko, Hawa $4,004,786 Tennessee State University
  • Ingram, Marissa $4,239,287 University of Mississippi
  • Jones, Kanecia $6,154,896 Tennessee State University
  • Westbrook, Jordyn $7,008,544 Fisk University

Marissa Ingram, a top five scholar and Valedictorian of Whitehaven High School, delivered welcoming remarks during the ceremony in addition to declaring her college decision.

“This virtual Academic Signing Day was a blessing to my family and I,” said Ingram upon reflecting on the ceremony. “I never thought I would be able to receive accolades for all of my long nights and countless hours spent working hard to accumulate acceptances and scholarships. Being able to celebrate my peers‘ and my accomplishments was important for my family, but most definitely for my community. Seeing that we could prosper and remain positive through any oncoming circumstance is essential. And I am honored and forever grateful to Peer Power, Doctor Hunter, and everyone involved for the ability to be a part of and to be recognized in such a wonderful, monumental program.”


ABOUT PEER POWER. Peer Power is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization innovating the public education system by inspiring and empowering youth to take control of their success. Peer Power’s Memphis Model recruits, trains, and employs high-performing college scholars from the University of Memphis to coach and mentor Shelby County Schools high school students within the classroom. This model improves high schoolers’ grades, standardized test scores, and college and job readiness, provides college students with job experience and the financial means to stay in school, and increases teachers’ job satisfaction, performance, and retention by reducing the student-to-instructor ratio to 1:10. To learn more, visit peerpowerfoundation.org.

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I want to make my future TEN TIMES BETTER!

Kylea Spradley

I am currently a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Memphis. I also work as a success coach for Peer Power at East High School and I absolutely adore my job. The satisfaction from helping and encouraging young scholars is an overwhelmingly positive feeling that fills me with determination to constantly do better not only in my educational life, but in my personal life too. I take great pride walking into East High School knowing that I am not only a resource for the students, but also a mentor. I am that friend to talk to when something is going on, or even the outside opinion on a situation that shines the light onto a new viewpoint.

Peer Power to me is helping motivate students to graduate on time, and with dignity. Peer Power to me means inspiring that scholar to take the ACT again and raise their score, even if it is just by one more point. That one point can be the difference of a 2,000-dollar scholarship for college. Peer Power to me is getting the students excited for the endless possibilities past graduation, whether it be college or joining the work force. Peer Power to me is igniting the fire of determination and motivation under every student, and to welcome them into our world, post high school, with arms wide open, as that shoulder to lean on, as that support system when they need it.

Another reason why I love Peer Power so very much, is that it helps me to revisit old topics that I may have forgotten about when I was in high school. In turn, it benefits me in my college classes. As a biomedical engineering student, I take a ton of math classes. As a math success coach at East High, I get a refresh on topics that I haven’t seen in a long while, And if I am able to explain a topic, such as proofs in Geometry or absolute value functions in Algebra 2, to a student who may or may not have seen said topic before and for the students to understand it even just a little better, then I know that I fully understand the topic myself.

The relationships I have built during my time as a success coach at East High School are ones I will remember forever. Whether it be with my team leads, my teacher, students, and even other success coaches, the entirety of it all feels like a second family. I know that I have a support system at Peer Power, one that will always be there to pick me up when I am down, to congratulate me when I succeed, and one I can reply on in the future of my academic career.