In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.”

The Montford Point Marine Association Chapter 10 and Ladies Auxiliary understand the value of education and play an active role to support educational assistance programs. They did just that at the 33rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Black and White Scholarship Ball in Jacksonville, Jan. 25.

One of the scholarships available through the MPMA/LA is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Award, named for the civil rights leader, which is available to any Onslow County student who meets the criteria.

“The first Black and White Scholarship Ball event was the brainchild of several members who wanted to help underprivileged youth pursue college-level education,” said Renea Lewis, MPMA/LA public relations officer. “This year we are celebrating our 33rd annual scholarship ball and the auxiliary is pleased to be able to help around 20 students a year. We believe in excellence through education because it is the great equalizer.”

Special guests were in attendance for this year’s ball.

“This year we are humbled and honored to be able to have two members of the original Montford Point Marines in attendance,” Lewis said. “They served in the first African American unit in the Marine Corps back in the 40s. (John) Spencer and (Norman) Preston, along with the rest of the Montford Point Marines, persevered through a difficult time in our nation. We aim to teach our students to take that gumption and apply it to their lives.”

According to Lewis, the ball is a great source of pride for the MPMA/LA as it has served as a financial resource for rising college students.

For Lewis, MLK Day was an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on equality and the notable contributions made by Civil Rights Movement leaders and the original Montford Point Marines.

“They were the precursors of the Civil Rights Movement spearheaded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Lewis. “As we pause to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we aim to empower students to always push for what is right and be trailblazers of their own.”