The Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge is now offering students enrolled in the Waynesboro Public Schools financial assistance to participate in cultural immersion travel programs, such as those sponsored by the Passport Club, a program coordinated by Waynesboro High School teachers Katie Ford, Jennifer Rudolph, and Tim Wion.
Generous donors, who wish to remain anonymous, approached the Foundation in 2015 with the idea to create a new scholarship. “Through their personal experience they recognize that exposure to other cultures can have a transformative effect on the development of young adults,” noted Dan Layman, CEO of the Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation chose to introduce one of its newest funds, known as the William Henry Sheppard Scholarship, to coincide with the beginning of Black History Month.
Rev. William Henry Sheppard (1865-1927), who the donors chose to honor with this new scholarship, was born in Waynesboro one month before the end of the American Civil War. He was one of the earliest African Americans to become a missionary for the Presbyterian Church.
Rev. Sheppard spent 20 years in Africa, primarily in and around the Congo Free State, and is best known for his efforts to publicize the atrocities committed against the Kuba and other Congolese peoples by King Leopold II. Rev. Sheppard’s efforts contributed to the contemporary debate on European colonialism and imperialism in the region.
His work as a missionary has been well-documented by several authors, and was the subject of a 2013 public lecture, “William Sheppard: A Hero of Waynesboro,” by Waynesboro’s own Greg Bruno. “William Henry Sheppard left our small city of Waynesboro and ventured to the African nation of Congo as a missionary, at a time when that region was as alien to Americans as the surface of Mars. His bravery, love of adventure, and faith in God stand as inspirations to the youth of today, as they face challenges in this modern world that may also seem initially insurmountable to them,” added Bruno.
This new scholarship is available to Waynesboro High School students, including rising 9th graders, seeking to participate in domestic or international cultural immersion travel experiences, of any duration, organized by the high school or other qualified nonprofit organizations. Cultural immersion travel involves contact and interaction with the culture of a region or country. Culture, in this sense, is defined as the way of life, activities, and traditions of a people, and not merely a country’s historic sites and scenic attractions.
Students interested in learning more about the William Henry Sheppard Scholarship should visit the Community Foundation for more information and to complete an online application. The initial scholarship is valued at $1,000.
“It is our great privilege to honor the life and work of Rev. Sheppard in this way,” added Layman.