A local nonprofit group that helped hundreds of minority students gain scholarships at universities nationwide has disbanded, according to its president.
The Thurston Group of Washington State, an organization with roots dating to 1994, folded because of the failing health of its founder. An effort by several volunteers to take over the organization was rejected because their ideas didn’t line up with the group’s mission, said Virgil Clarkson, the president of the board who also is Lacey’s deputy mayor.
As a result, Clarkson announced that the group’s founder, Larry Jenkins, requested that the group disband effective Feb. 5. Since making that announcement, Clarkson has contacted local school districts and has mailed more than 200 letters to destinations nationwide warning that any further use of the organization’s name is not authorized.
The Thurston Group helped more than 800 students gain more than $4 million in scholarships, according to its figures. The organization’s focus was to act as a conduit between students and representatives from historically black colleges and universities that then would offer scholarships.
“We were looking for students who were willing to work and find something to move on to,” Clarkson said.
One goal of the Thurston Group, which at its peak had about 15 volunteers, was to get minority students college-educated, then have them return as professionals, though Clarkson admitted those instances were rare.
Students who have received help from the group have gone on to receive college degrees all the way to doctorates, Clarkson said. He added that the group kept tabs on students while they attended school.
The idea for Thurston Group began when Jenkins, the brother-in-law of Clarkson, was a bus driver for North Thurston Public Schools.
Jenkins often would ask students about their goals and aspirations and rarely heard college as an answer. He then set up reading programs on the school buses and started getting involved with parents, who became his core volunteer group.
“This was his baby,” Clarkson said. He added that Jenkins had taken a reduced role in the group in recent years after suffering several strokes.
Initial work in the group included trips to Washington State University for student leadership conferences; it grew into visits to the South and bringing in representatives from universities from across the country.
Over the years, Thurston Group established ties with many historically black colleges including Wilberforce, Bethune-Cookman and Howard universities.
Clarkson said Jenkins will continue his work with schools to assist with recruiting minority teachers through the Reach Out Program.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/outsideoly