By Katherine Brinkley-Bloomfield
If academia had a National Signing Day similar to the NBA’s, Emmanuel Blake Dawson would have been the top draft pick.
In spring 2016, the nation and media were abuzz about the high school senior whose academic prowess garnered him more than $1 million in scholarship offers. Graduating from high school with a 4.2 GPA and 28 on the ACT, Dawson’s academic caliber earned him full rides to three universities, as well as five-digit offers from eight other universities, a total scholarship offering of $1,002,836.
He quickly became known as “The Million-Dollar Scholar.” He also received the Brown-Forman Summer Internship Scholarship, the Brown-Forman Youth Achievers Scholarship, the Humana Summer Internship Scholarship, the Humana Youth Achievers Scholarship, the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, the Rowan Family Reunion Scholarship and the YMCA Youth Character Award Scholarship.
“It was just really nice to make my granny proud,” Dawson said, reflecting on how it felt to receive so many scholarship offers. “She passed away before getting to see me receive all of these scholarships. But I always promised her, ‘I am going to graduate as valedictorian,’ which I did, and ‘I am going to graduate from college debt-free,’ which I will.”
Fast-forward one year and the Louisville, Kentucky, native is spending spring 2017 on the campus of Florida A&M University— having turned down offers from Bellarmine, Butler, Concordia of Chicago, Eastern Kentucky, Fisk, Hampton, Kentucky, Louisville, Northern Kentucky and Pittsburgh universities. He is thriving in FAMU’s School of Business and Industry (SBI), majoring in business administration.
And if you ask him if he made the right choice, his answer without hesitation is “yes.” “When I came and toured FAMU, I felt the love. Everything about it felt like home. It didn’t matter who I approached on campus, they were always ready, warm and welcoming,” said Dawson, who is involved in several student organizations on campus, including the FAMU Kinship of Big Brother Little Brother Mentoring Program, the Honor Student Association and the Student Financial Organization.
With so many offers to choose from, Dawson said, it was a call from an SBI recruiter that sealed the deal. O’Hara Hannah called Dawson personally to tell him he’d been offered a full-ride scholarship to FAMU.
“We talked for about an hour about all the great things SBI had to offer,” Dawson recalled. “It was then that I knew FAMU would be the right place for me to go. It was one of the best days ever.” During his freshman year, it was FAMU’s family-oriented environment that helped him navigate through a difficult health issue. He spent his first semester in and out of the hospital due to an enlarged heart. But with encouragement and support from his professors and friends in the SBI Living-Learning Community (LLC) at FAMU Village, he finished the semester with a 3.8 GPA, making the Dean’s List and growing to further appreciate his choice to become a Rattler.
“My friends in my LLC were the reason why I could finish the first semester,” Dawson said. “I had to go to the hospital multiple nights in a row. But, showing just why we are called the ‘College of Love and Charity,’ they worked with me to make sure I could keep up with my course load, ensuring that I would still be successful. I think that’s what FAMU is all about and why FAMU is so important.”
Dawson explained that FAMU’s Living-Learning Communities add something special to the college experience. “I love it,” he said. “We go to class together and have study sessions together. I’ve never been in a place where I’ve been so comfortable to be myself.”
According to his father, Greg Dawson, Dawson’s enrollment at FAMU is more than a story of a top scholar finding the right college choice. It highlights the important role of African-American educators and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
“His mom is an educator and my mom is an educator. So every day, education has been a recurring theme in his life,” Greg Dawson said. “He’s going to be the fifth-generation college-educated person in the family, and he understands the value of attending an HBCU. Not just the rigor, but the social and historical value also.”
Mom, Opal Dawson, agreed. “We had many choices and many schools recruited him, but it was when we came to visit FAMU that we realized that this was the other piece of the puzzle that would meet his needs,” she said.
As he prepares to enter his sophomore year, Emmanuel Blake Dawson has one message he wants to give to the upcoming class of scholars making their school choice:
“FAMU and its business school are just as stellar as the Harvards, the Whartons, the Yales and the Princetons of the world.” He added: “No one will love you like an HBCU will love you. Although you’re in college with a lot of other students, you’re not just a number at FAMU. They really care for you here. Anything you want to do, you can do it here at FAMU. Anything is possible on the ‘Hill.’”
Help support scholarships and Living-Learning Communities! Donate online at my.famu.edu/give or famurising.com.
From A&M Magazine (Summer 2017 Issue)
The full issue is available here.