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Focus on black education, a desire to help led to BAND Group was formed to help provide endowments for black schools.


Marlon Smith and Paul Dillon spend a lot of their time helping others.

Smith started a mentoring program for black high school students while still a student at the University of Virginia, and the Silver Spring native continues his community service through membership in the San Francisco chapter of the Black MBAs.

While he attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dillon, also from Silver Spring, started a mentoring program at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore, where the student body is overwhelmingly black.

"I like helping people," said Dillon, who is beginning his residency with Howard University Hospital. "I can't think of any better way to help people than to focus on the education of our youth."

That kind of thinking led Dillon, Smith and Smith's aunt, Thelma Austin, to found BAND, the Black Alumni Network Development.

The non-profit organization was founded early last year in Washington to afford black alumni the opportunity to provide endowments to help black colleges and universities.

While there are many organizations working to support black colleges, Smith said, many of those organizations don't go far enough. The United Negro College Fund, for instance, covers less than half of the historically black colleges and universities, according to BAND members, and professional organizations and fraternities and sororities are often narrow in scope.

"BAND seeks to combine all those forms," said Smith. "You don't have to be a member of a fraternity. You don't even have to have attended college. You just want to have to help."

"We want to be a vehicle to empower other black organizations. We want to be a vehicle where other organizations can voice their concerns," Smith added.

Already BAND has gathered nearly 50 members from Los Angeles to Washington who have helped to create a $1 million endowment fund for Howard, which is in the District of Columbia. Dillon said the majority of those who donated funds toward the Howard endowment were not graduates of predominantly black institutions.

In fact, endowments can and will be earmarked for black students at predominantly white institutions, Smith said. BAND simply wants to promote higher education for all black students, he added.

The organization also seeks to provide an atmosphere for networking among all groups providing assistance and support for blacks. It hopes to compile a semiannual handbook to publicize various organizations and the programs they have implemented throughout the country.

BAND is to hold its first national conference Aug. 1-4 in Freeport, Bahamas. Dubbed the Bahamian Extravaganza, the conference will include seminars on the future of black children, controlling finances, and determining which political party best serves the needs of blacks.

The university with the largest number of alumni in attendance is to be presented with a $5,000 check.

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