While coming of age in Harlem, Kevin Richardson dreamt of taking his passions for music and basketball to Syracuse University. His plan to further his education at the school would come to a halt in 1989 when the then 14-year-old was wrongfully convicted of rape along with four other Black and Latino teens who were labeled as the Central Park Five. It’s been 17 years since the men were exonerated, and the institution is honoring Richardson in a special way. According to WRVO, the university recently created a scholarship named after him.
Richardson was celebrated at a benefit reception hosted by the school’s Office of Multicultural Advancement where the scholarship was unveiled. The fund—which is a part of the school’s Our Time Has Come Scholarship program—will financially support Black and Latinx students attending Syracuse. According to the university, 1,300 students have been served through the initiative. Richardson—whose harrowing experience motivated him to become a criminal justice reform advocate—is humbled by the university’s decision to name a scholarship after him. “Just for people who look like me – people of color – to be helped and have a scholarship connected to my name, to help out individuals to move on further, which I didn’t get a chance to, to actually pay it forward to others – that is the best thing that can happen,” Richardson told the news outlet. “If I’m not around tomorrow, at least my legacy will continue on.”
Aside from the scholarship fund, students are pushing to have Richardson honored by the university in other ways. According to the Daily Orange Jalen Nash—a political science major at the school—launched an online petition asking Syracuse to award Richardson with an honorary degree. So far, the petition has garnered over 5,000 signatures. “While this dream could never be fulfilled due to circumstance, it is never too late to do the right thing,” Nash told ABC News.