Thurman Thomas and his family long ago recognized the importance of helping disadvantaged students afford an education at SUNY Erie Community College.
Since 1994, they've offered a scholarship that covers $500 for books. Now, as the Hall of Fame running back put it, they "upped the ante" through a partnership between the Thurman Thomas Family Foundation and the SUNY Erie Community College Foundation. The entities have created a scholarship for three disadvantaged students per year that, in addition to books, will cover full tuition, fees, and related costs upon entering the second year of their program.
The scholarship is worth approximately $5,000 to $6,000 per student, according to SUNY Erie.
"One of my kids (daughter, Angel) went to SUNY Erie, so it's always had a place in my heart," Thomas said Thursday. "I've had a couple of nephews go to ECC, so they've always had a place in my heart for giving scholarships and trying to give back. So this was just a perfect thing for me to really up the ante on what I want to do, actually, for disadvantaged kids in Erie County.
"These are the kids that maybe have a kid or maybe are working a job or something. And now, all of this takes the pressure off of them. They don't have to worry about their books, their tuition, their fees or anything like that, and can just concentrate on school, period. I think there's a lot of kids that can do well in school, but have this other thing going on and they can't spend enough time doing it."
Eligible students must have graduated from a school district within Erie County and be of African-American descent. They also must be a full-time matriculating student at SUNY Erie, have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and have a letter of recommendation from a member of the SUNY Erie faculty, staff, or alumni, high school counselor or administrator.
Thomas and his wife, Patti, and their children, along with the Thurman Thomas Family Foundation, are teaming with the SUNY Erie Foundation for a fundraising event for the scholarship called "Holidaze," on Dec. 14 at the Atrium at the SUNY Erie City Campus. Tickets are $100 apiece and may be purchased here.
"And we're not just going to stop (with the scholarship)," Thomas said. "Whenever these students get their two-year degree or their four-year degree, once they go to another school, we're going to stay in touch with them. We're going to figure out how to help them as best that we possibly can. Like which direction do you want to go in? Do we know somebody in this field? We want to continue to help these kids from here on out, because sometimes you get out of that school and you graduate and you don't know which way to go."