This man is special by anyone’s measure. He’d be extraordinary if he were white. But his story resonates on a special level because he’s black, from a single-parent home, and he had several strikes against him. Maybe the most important one was the bigotry of low expectations.
However, Ben Carson’s mother was a force to be reckoned with. She worked three jobs to support her boys. To keep them occupied while she was working, they were required to read two books a week and write reports on them. Mrs. Carson hid her illiteracy from her children, making them discuss the books with her, asking questions. Dr. Carson said that after a month or so he discovered he liked reading after all.
Another strike against him was his explosive temper. His anger scared him, so he did what he was trained to do: he asked God for help. He opened the Bible to the Book of Proverbs and the page he saw was one of aphorisms which talked about anger. That impressed Carson. For one thing, he knew that the authorship of Proverbs was assigned to Solomon, and Solomon was Ben Carson’s middle name. He also knew he couldn’t lick his violent reactivity by himself and in his eyes, he didn’t have to. Ever since that moment, his day begins and ends with the Book of Proverbs.
The Carson Scholars Fund supports two main initiatives:
1. Carson Scholarships. This program awards students who have embraced high levels of academic excellence and community service with $1,000 college scholarships.
2. The Ben Carson Reading Project initiative creates inviting and exciting reading rooms for students to discover the joy of independent reading.
In 1996, the first year that scholarships were awarded, 25 deserving students were recognized as scholars. Through the generosity of our donors and partners, we are now able to award nearly 600 scholarships annually. In total, we have awarded over 3,400 scholarships across the country. 433 students have won multiple times. Our scholars come from all across the country, and our award winners currently represent 27 states. Carson scholarship winners have attended 184 colleges and universities, and have received over $800,000 in scholarship funds to help finance their education.
The Ben Carson Reading Project has also enjoyed similar success. Through successful partnerships with individuals and corporations, over half a million dollars has been invested into creating and maintaining Ben Carson Reading Rooms. A total of 40 reading rooms have been established in schools across the country. These rooms have enabled all the students in each school to discover the pleasure in independent reading by providing a warm and inviting atmosphere for educational discovery. Students earn motivational rewards for the number of books or minutes read, as well as for improvement in reading levels.
Our 501(c)(3) non-profit programs are financed through individual and corporate donations. Over 90 cents of every dollar contributed is directly invested into our educational programs.
The vision for the Carson Scholars Fund came from the Carsons’ observation that many school display cases were filled with large trophies paying tribute to their teams sports’ achievements, while honor students traditionally received a pin or certificate. Then, after reading a research study stating that students in the United States ranked 21 out of 22 countries – next to the bottom of the list – in science and math, the Carsons felt alarmed and compelled to take action.[my emphasis – D]
The crisis needed to be addressed. The concept was simple…Students in grades 4-11 who had at least a 3.75 grade point average and demonstrated strong humanitarian qualities would be recommended by school officials to apply for $1,000 scholarships. If a student won a scholarship, it would be invested for his or her college education until graduation from high school and he or she would be designated as a Carson Scholar. Winners could reapply annually as long as they maintained their GPA. The awards would be paid directly to the four-year accredited institution of higher learning, on their behalf.
As the organization grew, the Carsons established a second program in 2000, the Ben Carson Reading Project. In his autobiography, Gifted Hands, Dr. Carson wrote about how his life was changed once he embraced reading. Recognizing the need to create warm and inviting places to learn the joys of independent reading, the Ben Carson Reading Project established reading rooms within schools. The reading rooms provide a friendly atmosphere where students, educators, and community members can come together and embrace reading activities. Each room is colorfully decorated and promotes Dr. Carson’s “THINK BIG” philosophy. Students within reading room schools can earn rewards for their improvement in reading level, the number of books read, or the number of minutes spent reading.
You know why this is important? Because people like Ben Carson, Bill Cosby, Alvin Poussaint, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and others are pushing kids past empty dreams of athletic prowess or rap music fame. They are telling the next generation that “only learning lasts”. They are urging the community to get involved in the lives of children. And they are putting their monetary resources, their time and their energy into making the world a better place because they were here, exhorting us to live beyond ourselves.
By the way, his scholarship awards are open to children of all races.
Dr. Carson is in his late 50s. He’s had prostate cancer and he has an incredible surgery schedule. Will he burn out? I don’t think so. When people are absolutely sure they are doing the will of God (despite the opinion of others), it gives them a well of energy from which to draw. But however long he’s here, Carson is determined to assure that there will be others to replace him.