Education Defines Cherise Newsome

Cherise Newsome cherishes her 1959 photo of 17 Norfolk school desegregation pioneers.
As 2001 valedictorian at Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School, Cherise Williams Newsome dreamed of attending Georgetown University. However, paying for the private university was a challenge.

“My high school English teacher went (to Georgetown) and stressed considering colleges outside the area,” recalls Cherise. She was intrigued about spending four years studying in Washington, D.C., near the Smithsonian museums, National Cathedral and Kennedy Center.

To pay for Georgetown “my guidance counselor steered me to apply for every scholarship I could,” Cherise recalls.

Cherise, the daughter of a single mom, overcame Georgetown’s private tuition thanks to scholarships, including the Jesse T. Bonney Scholarship from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. “Getting in a college doesn’t mean you can go there,” she says. “Scholarships helped me get to where I needed to be to accomplish my dreams.” She also had summer internships and worked on campus to help pay expenses.

The Bonney Scholarship, which dates to 1981, honors the late Jesse Bonney, a Norfolk business owner. He died in 1910 at age 63, shortly after founding a home in Norfolk for girls who were orphans or whose parents could not care for them. After the Bonney Home closed in 1981, its board of directors donated $245,917 to the community foundation to create a scholarship for females ages 25 and under. Thanks to investment growth and the power of endowment, more than 180 Bonney Scholars have received more than $1 million in scholarships since then. Bonney Scholars typically have the scholarship for four years of study. In 2016-17 there were 18 students who had the scholarship.

After graduating from Georgetown, Cherise returned to Hampton Roads to live, work and raise her family. She and her husband Richard live in Norfolk and have three boys. For 11 years, Cherise was a reporter for The Virginian-Pilot covering city government, education and other topics. In October 2016, Cherise switched careers and became Portsmouth Public Schools’ public information officer.

“I am passionate about education,” Cherise says. “It is the great equalizer and pathway to a better life. This job marries my passions.”

Cherise grew up seeing how her mother Maria Williams-Giddens, an English teacher for 40 years, shaped lives. Knowing how education opens doors, one of Cherise’s proudest possessions is a photo she selected from The Virginian-Pilot archives when she left there. The print was a gift from the newspaper staff. It shows the 17 African-American students who in 1959 desegregated Norfolk Public Schools. Among them is one of Cherise’s former teachers, the late Patricia Godbolt White.

“I’m forever indebted to her and the others,” Cherise says. “I stand on their shoulders and can now advocate for public education for all because they showed me how.”

The Hampton Roads Community Foundation administers more than 80 scholarship funds, including scholarships to medical and theological schools. The deadline to apply for all undergraduate and most graduate scholarships for the 2018-19 academic year is March 1. Learn more.

Return to all posts

Stay informed. Sign up for the latest updates from our foundation.

More Scholarships Posts