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Brotherís keeper pledge inspires UNC Charlotte alumni to give
Scholarship Ďa game-changerí for students
Published Tuesday, July 19, 2016 5:37 pm
by Herbert L. White

Zacch Estrada-Petersen (left) and Kevin Jackson pooled their resources to fund an endowed scholarship for black men studying sciences and math at UNC Charlotte.

A college scholarship changed Zacch Estrada-Petersen’s life.

Today, he’s paying it forward.

For two years, Estrada-Peterson, 31, and fellow UNC Charlotte alumnus Kevin Jackson, 36, have invested in My Brother’s Keeper, a scholarship endowment fund for black men majoring in science, technology, engineering and math at their alma mater. The initiative is a way for Estrada-Petersen to help students like himself who benefited from a $10,000 scholarship from former NBA player Shareef Abdur-Rahim to attend UNCC.

“He paid 10 grand a year for four years, so that was the game-changer for me,” said Estrada-Petersen, who like Abdur-Rahim, graduated Joseph Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. “It really changed the trajectory of my life.”

African Americans have historically been underrepresented STEM fields, but Estrada-Petersen and Jackson are looking to encourage more interest in the sciences, which are increasingly more lucrative professions. The scholarship is also an avenue to help young men achieve education and professional goals.

“Over the last couple of years, I got increasingly concerned with how they were viewed in the public eye, between Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and in general,” Estrada-Petersen said of high-profile fatal confrontations with whites. “I wanted to do something that would have the greatest impact on something I was concerned with, which was increasing opportunity at the level of black men in the STEM fields because I find us to be underrepresented in those fields.”

Estrada-Petersen was inspired to launch the scholarship after learning of President Barack Obama’s national initiative  to address opportunity gaps faced by boys and men of color. As college costs continue to increase, Estrada-Petersen recruited Jackson to build an endowment to offer an economic lifeline to students who may otherwise miss an education opportunity.

“We really want it to be transformative,” Estrada-Petersen said. “If you can give one outstanding student a game-changing amount of money, I think it’s better than giving multiple students just a little.”

Estrada-Petersen (Class of 2005) and Jackson (Class of 2007) each pledged $12,500 over a five-year period to meet the $25,000 standard for endowed scholarships at UNCC. Once the threshold is met, a scholarship will be given using the interest earned from the endowment. The principal balance is never spent and becomes a perpetual source of funding.  

“Our goal is to contribute $2,500 each every year over five years,” said Estrada-Petersen, who earned a degree in accounting, while Jackson majored in software and information systems. “Where some people can up and give $1 million or $2 million a year, that doesn’t mean we can’t still contribute.”

The philanthropists have opened the way for smaller contributions in an effort to fast-track the endowment by matching Estrada-Petersen and Jackson’s commitment.

“We created the 20/20 Club, which is 20 people giving $20 a month for a year, which equals $4,800,” Estrada-Petersen said. “It’s a much less (rigorous) commitment for a person but it more or less doubles the endowment every year.”


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