The Twin Cities-based Page Education Foundation is getting ready to celebrate 26 years on April 5 with its annual Legacy Gala, and perhaps no one is more excited than Abdul Omari, one of the benefactors of a Page Education scholarship.
The foundation, of course, was started by former Vikings legend/NFL Hall of Famer and Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Alan Page, along with his wife, Diane. Omari (pictured, with Page) is one of the 4,000 students of color who have received a post-secondary grant from the Page Foundation over the years.
About 8,000 education grants have been given out so far, and Page Scholars have gone on to study at 104 post-secondary schools across Minnesota.
Omari, who graduated from South Minneapolis High School 10 years ago, told BringMeTheNews that he remains in awe of the opportunities the Page Scholarship Program not only afforded him, but two of his older siblings. He's also thrilled that there's no limit to where the program can take you.
"The program funds you all the way through as much graduate school as you decide to pursue, so I had four years of undergrad studies, two years of the masters program, and now, I'm in the fourth year of the doctoral program," says Omari, who is also on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. "The Page Foundation is really what allows people to pursue their dreams. As cliché as that sounds, it's absolutely true."
The beauty of the Page Education Foundation, Omari says, is the program's commitment to give back to the community beyond the education its scholars receive.
"The unique thing about the Page Foundation is their service to children projects. The scholars are all required to give back 50 hours of to young people," says Omari, who has served as a mentor for young men through the Project Alpha program at the Totem Town juvenile delinquency facility. "When you go visit with a young person every week who is expecting you to be there, your mindset tends to change. You start to say to yourself, 'I'm not just here for me. I'm not even here for my family. I'm here for people who don't even know who I am.' It's that level of accountability that separates the Page Foundation from every other organization."
The Page Education Foundation's Legacy Gala is set for 7 to 11 p.m. April 5 at the Rod Carew Atrium/Legends Room at Target Field. The Chastity Brown Band is providing the music at the event, which will also feature gourmet dishes with a ball park flair, a silent auction, "Mystery Boxes" people can bid on, as well as other activities. Tickets are $150.
Omari loves the annual event because it's a reunion of sorts for he and other Page Education Foundation scholars – encounters that he finds quite moving.
"One of the most exciting and inspiring things for me is seeing Alan Page," Omari says. "He doesn't take any credit or say much. It's so interesting, because I frequently forget he's a Hall of Fame football player. When that happens, I think it says a whole lot about the character of such a person. His football career was a great accomplishment – for some people that would be the accomplishment – but it's not for him. His is about what he's done beyond that and see his program thrive. His support is just absolutely incredible. "
And as much as Omari has accomplished as a Page Education Scholar, seeing Page in person makes him want to accomplish that much more as he continues to pursue his PhD in Comparative & International Development Education.
"When I go these things and see him, I go to myself, 'I really need to get my life together,'" Omari says, laughing. "To see what he's done is incredible."