January 6, 2010 16:04 Age: 4 yrs

PERSPECTIVE: Giving Students a Pat on the Back

By: Phyllis Mahoney

Marc Rawls 99L helps high school seniors get needed financial support

Marc Rawls 99L spends five to 10 hours a month doing outreach for Students Without Mothers Inc.

Promoting education is a priority for Marc Rawls 99L, a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in Atlanta and vice chair of the board of directors for Students Without Mothers Inc.

The Atlanta-based charity awards small college scholarships to students whose mothers have died or are not living at home because of other circumstances.

“A lot of times, they are very, very self-sufficient and independent,” Rawls said, noting students often live on their own or in foster homes. “You just want to help them because they are doing so much to help themselves.”

The group helps from 25 to 40 students at a time, depending on funding. A typical scholarship is $1,000 a year for four years. Students apply as high school seniors. They must maintain a 2.0 gpa or better in college and serve on an advisory board after graduation.

This year, the organization gave four students $4,000 scholarships and a laptop for college in addition to helping 30 college students with $1,000 scholarships.

Rawls, who received a full scholarship to Morehouse College and a Woodruff Fellowship to Emory Law, said his scholarships allowed him to focus on his schoolwork, and he’d like to help ease the way for others.

“We’re just trying to give the students a little bit of a pat on the back,” he said, adding the money can make a big difference, helping with living expenses, books, airline tickets to college or other school-related needs.
In addition to awarding scholarships, Students Without Mothers partners students with life coaches who offer guidance and serve as mentors.

“A lot of times they don’t have someone at home to lift them up and celebrate the accomplishment of getting into school,” Rawls said. He noted that an annual reception celebrated the achievements of new scholarship recipients.

Rawls, who practices in corporate mergers and acquisitions, securities issues and general corporate matters, got involved with Students Without Mothers three years ago.

He joined the Students Without Mothers board about two years ago and spends five to 10 hours a month calling contacts on behalf of the group. He also is a member of 100 Black Men of Atlanta Inc., another charity focused on education.

Though Students Without Mothers has remained small since its founding in 1999, he said, the hope is eventually to spread to other cities.

One of the organization’s biggest challenges is maintaining donations, Rawls said. “Although the economy has slowed, it hasn’t slowed the need.”

Rawls’ firm has been generous, supporting his efforts and buying a table for the group’s fundraiser. Sutherland also has donated refurbished laptops for students.

“The great thing about this organization is the actual amount we’re asking for isn’t all that much,” Rawls said. “But for these kids, $1,000 or a laptop really does make a world of difference.”

Phyllis Mahoney is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis.

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