Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and his wife, Renee, will donate $4 million to Maryland’s historically Black universities to create scholarships for 80 graduates of Baltimore City Public Schools, a gift described as “life-changing” by university leaders and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.
The scholarship program, paired with a $400,000 donation to the CollegeBound Foundation, will carry the name of longtime Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome, the first Black general manager in NFL history.
“We embrace the responsibility of discovering ways to strengthen educational opportunities for the youth of Baltimore City,” Steve Bisciotti said in a statement. “Any positive impact that can be made to help students — especially in the pursuit of a college education and their career goals — only strengthens our community as a whole.”
The Ozzie Newsome Scholars Program will give $1 million each to Coppin State University, Morgan State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, with each school committed to selecting five recipients every year starting with the 2022-2023 school year. Each scholar will receive $10,000 a year for up to five years of college.
“This money will remove a significant barrier that is in front of [our students],” Morgan State President David Wilson said. “It will enable these young people, in many instances to break the cycle of poverty.”
The donation struck a personal chord with Scott because he relied on the CollegeBound program to help him get from Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School to St. Mary’s College.
“Very simply, CollegeBound saved my life,” the mayor said. “Were it not for me receiving scholarship funds through CollegeBound, you and I would not be talking today, because I would not have been able to go to college.”
He said the Bisciottis’ donation will “do the same for another generation.”
“These are 80 young people who are going to come from our city, who might be first-generation [college students], who will then, because they went to college, increase their family’s ability to lead a thriving life,” Scott said. “This is what you’re talking about with a gift like this. These are 80 young people who will be able to not fall prey and fall victim to the things that are happening in Baltimore consistently. It’s not small potatoes.”
In addition to the annual funding, Newsome Scholars will work with a college completion adviser and an on-campus peer mentor and attend a college transition workshop arranged by CollegeBound.
“I appreciate the Bisciotti family for seeing our students and recognizing the importance of supporting the whole student for success in college,” Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said in a statement.
The Bisciottis’ donation represents the latest social justice initiative for the Ravens, who issued a statement last summer calling for the arrests of police officers responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Wilson, the Morgan president, said it’s essential for a broadly popular institution such as the Ravens to back such efforts.
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“The Ravens are Baltimore, and Baltimore is the Ravens,” he said. “They have such a deep imprint in our communities and neighborhoods.”
Wilson added that he’s optimistic the successes of Newsome Scholars will inspire the Bisciottis to go beyond their initial four-year commitment.
Steve Bisciotti said he saw the scholarship program as an ideal way not just to help city families but also to honor Newsome, who helped integrate his Alabama elementary school in the 1960s and starred in just the third class at the University of Alabama to feature Black football players. He went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career as a tight end with the Cleveland Browns before moving to Baltimore with the franchise.
“The brilliance of Ozzie Newsome extends far beyond his accolades as a player and executive,” Bisciotti said in a statement. “Throughout his entire life, Ozzie has inspired and uplifted everyone around him with his leadership, humility and determination. We hope that Ozzie’s example will inspire each of the Newsome scholars.”
Newsome said he was “humbled” by Bisciotti’s gesture. “This program will give many local graduates the ability to continue their education, and in turn will equip them with the necessary tools to make meaningful impact in the Baltimore community and beyond,” he added in a statement. “These students will further their education through Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which is especially meaningful to me.”
Scott sees a powerful metaphor in having the scholarship program named after Newsome. “When you think of the Ravens and you think of the architect of the greatness of the team, you think about Ozzie,” he said. “So of course this should bear his name, because what Steve is doing with this donation is really trying to be the architect of how our city can be better … by drafting young people into colleges to allow them to thrive.”
Note: The Ravens signed wide receiver Devin Gray to their 90-man roster Thursday. Gray, undrafted out of Cincinnati in 2018, has spent parts of three seasons on the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad and most recently played in The Spring League, a developmental football league and pro showcase.