Memorial Brandon Hendricks scholarship grows award to $20K for college-bound Bronxites
When 17-year-old Brandon Hendricks-Ellison was gunned down at a barbecue on July 28, 2020, he had just graduated from James Monroe High School in Soundview and was on his way to play college basketball at St. John’s University on a full scholarship.
News of Hendricks-Ellison’s death made waves throughout the New York City. At his funeral on July 15, 2020, then-City Councilmember Vanessa Gibson reflected on his death, saying, “It’s hard to sit here and mourn the loss of someone who had such promise and a bright future. In just 17 years on this earth, look at the impact Brandon had on the Bronx and beyond.”
While legal justice for the rising basketball star is still pending, Hendricks-Ellison’s memory continues to be celebrated in the Bronx. Being from the Morrisania neighborhood, East 156th Street and Park Avenue was renamed Hendricks-Ellison Boulevard after the late teen on July 7, 2021, embedding his memory in the borough.
In an effort to support this mission and help preserve Hendricks-Ellison’s memory, the Oyate Group — a nonprofit organization based in New York City — launched a scholarship in his name under the Bronx Rising Initiative in 2020.
Created exclusively for college-bound high school seniors from the Bronx, the Brandon Hendricks Scholarship is also meant to relieve financial barriers to higher education for promising students like Hendricks-Ellison. And the organization recently announced that it will be increasing the amount of money it awards to this year’s scholarship recipients.
“Too often youth in our most underserved neighborhoods do not have access to higher education,” said Tomas Ramos, the founder, president and CEO of the Oyate Group.
Brandon Hendricks was a standout hooper at James Monroe High School and was set to play college ball at St John’s before his life was tragically cut short.
While individual applicants previously received one-time awards of $5,000 individually, the Oyate Group said that it will award each of this year’s two recipients with $20,000, supporting them each with $5,000 annually over the course of their four-year degree.
Restructuring the Brandon Hendricks Scholarship to support just two recipients through four years of their education is a “more impactful” way to create “long-term sustainable outcomes” from the program, Ramos said.
“Education is critical to ending the cycle of poverty, and we’re looking forward to the impact our scholarship winners can have on future generations,” he added. “We know Brandon would have been a transformational force for the Bronx, and we hope to support others like him on their journeys.”
Muhamed Bayo, 20, was one of the first students to receive the Hendricks Scholarship back in 2020. Born in The Gambia, he moved to the Fordham area about 10 years ago, where he still lives.
Now a junior at Boston College where he studies political science and art history, Bayo said that receiving the scholarship was instrumental in helping him survive and succeed during his first year at school amidst the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was in the thick of COVID, and I couldn’t really get a job on campus or anything like that, so I had to kind of find a way to make ends meet during that year,” he said. “I’m on very high financial aid already, but college is all about weird expenses that come out of nowhere. You’re just kind of surviving … money just goes left and right.”
“Having the scholarship just helped me kind of be a normal college kid and not have to stay in my room all day,” he added. “I could actually go out with my friends and if I needed a book at the bookstore, I could actually go buy the book. … It just made an already hard year a little bit easier for me.”
In the spirit of Hendricks-Ellison and out of gratitude for the scholarship, Bayo also hopes to help out members of his community that are going through similar struggles.
“I’ve been reached out to by some high schoolers as well, who wanted me to tell them what the application process looked like, so I’m able to help them out,” he shared. “There’s a lot more to go, but yeah, I’m glad to get started on that path of sort of repaying it.“
Since 2020, the Oyate Group has sent 15 students from the Bronx to college providing $100,000 in scholarships, but Hendricks-Ellison’s legacy extends beyond this financial award.
He was not only a talented athlete, but also a successful student. Throughout his time in school, the basketball star won academic awards and often helped his classmates with their work.
East 156th Street and Park Avenue now also bears the name Brandon Hendricks-Ellison Boulevard in memory of the late teen.
Hendricks-Ellison’s former basketball coach at Monroe, Nigel Thompson, posted a tribute to him on Instagram following his death, calling him “thoughtful, kind and caring” and characterizing him as respectful and empathetic.
Thompson condemned the shooting that killed Hendricks-Ellison, writing, “The senseless violence has to stop.”
Arrested on July 6, 2020, Najhim Luke — the man accused of killing Hendricks-Ellison — was later indicted on Sept. 22 that year. After years of a delayed trial, he is yet to be convicted — his most recent scheduled court appearance was on Feb. 28, 2023.
“What can we do as a community and a society to prevent our Princes from killing each other so senselessly?” Thompson wrote after Hendricks-Ellison’s death. “I’m pretty certain that the bullets that took Brandon’s life were not meant for him. He wasn’t that kind of a kid. But those bullets should not have been meant for anyone.”
The Oyate Group’s mission continues this year, as applications for the Brandon Hendricks Scholarship are currently open. To apply for the Brandon Hendricks Scholarship, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PP3ZRBB.
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