‘Elite eight’ to attend Kent State on full scholarships from alumnus Steve Harvey

(left to right) Anthony Morris, Jr. (A.J.), Lamont Averett, Johnell Parnell, Zethran Jackson, Mark Jenkins, Jaiden Morales all pose for a picture together after the watch party of the Steve Harvey talk show ended. They are six of the eight students who received scholarships from Steve Harvey. 

Rachel Karas

Editor’s note: Grammatical edits were made to the original version of this story so that Darryl Moore’s quote was more clear. 

Jennifer Morales was caught off guard when she found out her son Jaiden would receive a full ride scholarship to Kent State from talk show host Steve Harvey.

“I came in the house and he was crying,” she said. “I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ and he just hugs me and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ and he’s like, ‘My college is paid for.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘Steve Harvey is paying for my college.’” 

At a watch party Wednesday morning at the Kent Student Center, faculty, staff and family members cheered and clapped as six of the freshmen watched themselves on Steve, Harvey’s talk show. 

Harvey spoke with Sonya Williams, the interim executive director in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), about how the students were chosen for the scholarships. 

“We [members of DEI and The Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation] were at a table and we said ‘Well how do we find these young men to give these opportunities to?’,” Williams said on Harvey’s show. “Academically, these are top of the line, … some come from really adverse backgrounds, and all they needed was an opportunity and so we took advantage of this opportunity to give them a future.”

Williams accompanied the students along with Alfreda Brown, vice president of DEI, and Michael Daniels, assistant director of Student Multicultural Center and Male Empowerment Network (MEN) Coordinator, to the recording session on May 9. 

The “elite eight,” as many faculty and staff members are calling them, are eight incoming freshmen who will receive full scholarships from the The Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation for four years. The students’ tuition and room and board costs will be covered, which is worth about $23,000 a year each. 

Jaiden Morales of Lorain came to the party; he participated in Kent State’s TRIO Upward Bound program, which aims to “help students overcome class, social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education,” according to the Upward Bound website. 

The Lorain High School graduate already planned to attend Kent State. Sonya Williams, the interim executive director in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), called him and asked how he was going to pay for college. 

“You don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Jaiden recalled her saying. “Then, she goes into depth about the full ride, books, housing, everything. It’s 100% tuition free,” Jaiden said. “I took it all in and I started crying.”

Jaiden is one of five students chosen from the TRIO program; The other four students in the TRIO program are Johnell Parnell and Zethran Jackson from Akron, Ohio and Lamont Averett and Mark Jenkins from Barberton, Ohio. 

Anthony Morris Jr. (A.J.) also attended the watch party and graduated from Ginn Academy High School in Cleveland. 

Kelvon Gibson, also a Ginn Academy graduate, and Craig Johnson, who was a part of the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program, will also receive scholarships.

When Harvey came back for his fraternity’s 50th celebration and he heard one of its members had passed away a year prior, he was inspired to give back. 

Devan Moore was a senior journalism major who died on December 6, 2017 after collapsing during a game of basketball at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center on campus.

After Devin passed, many people close to him had difficulties. Devin’s fraternity brothers in Kent State’s chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity were hit especially hard.

“We decided that there has to be somebody to come down and deal with them, as far as their feelings and their mental states,” Rev. Theopolis Washington II, Devin’s godfather, said. “I became their undergraduate advisor to over see it and with the assistance of Mr. Moore, that’s what put the ball in motion to when Steve came down for our 50th and we got him to meet with the university and you know, the rest is history.” 

Although Devin’s fraternity brothers and family have both struggled with his passing, they’ve chosen to focus on the positive things his life has inspired.

“There’s no script to get through this, for this loss … but you see, great things have happened,” Darryl Moore, Devin’s father, said. “And this is just the start, this is just the start. The endowment, the Devin CG Moore Memorial fund … this is just a stepping stone to greater things that are ahead.”

Rachel Karas is editor of KentWired. Contact her at [email protected]