Claflin University sophomore Dennis Richmond Jr. recently accepted a $25,000 United Negro College Fund scholarship as a Target Rising Star recipient.

Richmond was honored at the 36th annual taping of “UNCF: An Evening of Stars,” which aired live on BET networks.

UNCF, known for its continuous efforts to support the education of African-American students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, hosted the “UNCF: An Evening of Stars” in collaboration with leading artists, major corporations and personal foundations to garner support for HBCU student scholarships.

The event raised more than $500,000 in scholarship money. Twenty students were selected to receive portions of the scholarship money.

Richmond was one of only six sophomores across the country chosen as honorees.

“Paying for college has been an issue for me in the past,” Richmond said. “I’ve taken out student loans – a lot of student loans. Up until this point, my mother’s retirement savings has paid the majority of my college education.”

The aspiring genealogist majors in African diaspora studies at Claflin.

Without the UNCF scholarship, Richmond said he would have accumulated “over $50,000 in student loan debt” by his graduation date.

“The valuable part about this whole experience is learning that hard work pays off,” he said.

The 20-year-old sophomore, who maintains a 3.7 GPA at Claflin, is no stranger to hard work.

At age 13, he was already conducting research to begin his first genealogical company. By the time he was 18, he had established his own company, Westchester Genealogical Services. Richmond said he enjoys helping people research their family trees and looks forward to pursuing the career full time after graduation.

He said his clientele includes New York State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, actor/producer David Banner and Claflin President Dr. Henry Tisdale.

In addition to helping others research their ancestry, the Yonkers, New York, native is passionate about students receiving an HBCU education.

Richmond was recently featured in The Times and Democrat for starting the New York State HBCU Initiative to help students in his hometown become more aware of HBCUs.

“Students in New York don’t know about HBCUs and the opportunities that they have because most HBCUs are down south,” he said.

“I want to give back to my community with my HBCU initiative. The students are our future. We have to invest in them in order to see a brighter day.”

Read more here.