By Arlene Edmonds
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Six students are the recipients of the second disbursement from the Msgr. John Mitchell Memorial Scholarship Fund. Four current archdiocesan students and two graduating eighth-graders were presented with their scholarship prizes at a reception hosted by the Office for Black Catholics at the Archdiocesan Office Center on June 4.

The 2009-2010 Mitchell Scholars include Wallace Weaver, a senior this fall and class president of Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote. Weaver was also among the 2008-2009 Mitchell Scholars who were honored at the inaugural banquet for the fund held last November. He is a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Glenside.

“I am really happy and honored to receive this award again,” Wallace said before the awards ceremony. “I plan to go to college next year and major in political science. I want to become an elected official so I can represent the people and make positive changes in their lives.”

Wallace, along with Stefan Johnson, Brittany Sturspanant and Latifha Brooks all received a $2,000 award. The younger recipients were Chad Austin and Joseph Hill, and they each received a $1,000 scholarship.

Johnson, like Wallace, was also recently elected president of his class and hopes to major in political science. He will be a senior at Roman Catholic High School in the upcoming school year. He volunteers at the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics and is a member of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish where Msgr. Mitchell served. Among the colleges he is considering attending are Howard and Villanova universities.

Brooks, who will be in 10th grade at SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School in September, aspires to be a teacher because of her love of education and children. Sturspanant is entering her junior year at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School and has her sights set on going to medical school. Both girls are members of Philadelphia parishes, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Francis de Sales, respectively.

Austin, a member of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Mount Airy, will be entering the freshman class of Roman Catholic High School, and Hill, a member of St. Anne Church in Phoenixville, will be a ninth-grader at St. Pius X High School in Pottstown this fall.

“This is a blessing, and all these students need to be applauded,” said Father Stephen D. Thorne, director of the Office for Black Catholics and administrator of the scholarship fund.

“This is a wonderful occasion and you should each be proud,” added Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis, chairman of the Mitchell fund.

John Borden, a recent college graduate and member of St. Therese Parish, encouraged the scholars to be diligent about their school work. He gave them each a copy of poet Langston Hughes’ opening verse from “Lenox Avenue Mural,” and after reading it, encouraged them to fulfill their potential.

It was on March 3, 2008 that Cardinal Justin Rigali announced that the Archdiocese had received a bequest to fund a scholarship in honor of Msgr. Mitchell, who served as an archdiocesan priest from 1939 to 1981. During that time he was pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis de Sales parishes in West Philadelphia. There, Msgr. Mitchell was known for his faithful ministry to African-American Catholics.

Thus the fund was established to support academically accomplished Catholic African-American high school students from low to moderate-income households in the Archdiocese.

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at