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Doing Good: Norfolk Couple's Scholarship Helps Students Today

Meet Raven Bland, Norfolk's first Youth Poet Laureate, and a Hampton Roads Community Foundation scholarship recipient.

Raven is a senior at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia who has been helped by a Joseph A. and Bertha W. Harry scholarship since her freshman year of college. She is among 413 students going to college in the fall with more than $1.3 million in Hampton Roads Community Foundation scholarships started by donors like the Harrys.

Raven, a Granby High School graduate, grew up in the same Norview neighborhood in Norfolk where the Harrys lived. Joseph made his living as a grocery buyer and owner of rental houses. He and his wife Bertha had no children but left a $1.7 million bequest to start a permanent scholarship fund for ODU and Virginia Wesleyan College students. So now the Harrys have hundreds of children who have all have benefited from their generosity.

Raven will be among 40 students helped by the Harry Scholarship in 2016-17. She has written poetry as a hobby since age 12 and last year won Norfolk's inaugural Youth Poet Laureate contest sponsored by Teens With a Purpose, Urban Word, Hampton Roads Youth Poets and the Norfolk Public Library. This 1-minute-27-second video produced by ODU gives a glimpse into Raven's poetry.

Winning the 2015 contest led to Raven's first published book of poetry When the Raven Sings and public readings of her work where she saw first-hand how her words help people deal with life issues.

Raven is a history major who aspires to a career in government. She works at ODU's Student Success Center and this summer is interning with the City of Norfolk in its Department of Neighborhood Development.

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