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Several Universities, Colleges Embrace George Floyd Memorial Scholarships

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A movement is underway at some of the most prestigious institutions in the country.

It's all because of a quick moment that happened at the beginning of George Floyd's Minneapolis memorial service back in June at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis.

To open the ceremony, university president Scott Hagan told the crowd NCU was starting a scholarship.

"Far beyond North Central University, I am now challenging every university president in the USA to establish your own George Floyd memorial scholarship fund," Hagen said.

Since that plea, major universities, liberal arts colleges and Ivy League schools have all responded.

May 25, 2020 was a day that changed the world. Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer's knee held is neck to the ground for almost eight minutes.

Like so many, a teenage boy in Moline, Iowa, felt the pain. Derek Burgin is a freshman at NCU.

"I've had a burden for stories like him. I've always been touched," Burgin said. "There's always been an anger inside me of that's been like, 'This isn't right.'"

He already knew life wasn't fair. He never knew his father. His mother couldn't raise him, and after being bounced from home to home, Burgin ended up living with his grandparents.

"I'm not supposed to be at college at all. And based on my life before I was 4 years old … I should probably be on the streets by now," he said.

Instead of in the streets, Burgin is now in the dorms. He received full tuition for four years in Floyd's name.

"George Floyd started something that wasn't going to be started for a long time. It brought me the scholarship I needed to get through North Central. I didn't know if I was gonna last one year, if I was gonna be able to pay for it. But the scholarship has been a blessing," Burgin said.

And he is in good company. Ever since NCU's president made an impromptu challenge, schools across the country have followed suit, like the University of Minnesota, tge University of Michigan; to the University of Kansas; to Penn State; and Minnesota schools like Hamline and Bethel universities, just to name a few.

"[Burgin] is a person that we all know, and there is a deep sadness. And so the whole hope of the scholarship is to change the story and to turn the evil into good, and to turn what happened to George Floyd into something that won't happen to a new generation," Hagan said.

Burgin is that generation. He plans to become a youth pastor and a counselor, fulfilling his dreams because of someone else who can't.

"In his honor, I want to finish my life, and I want to be proud of it. By the time I'm 80 years old I want to be like, 'Wow, I lived my life and I lived to serve others,'" Burgin said.

Unlike many full scholarships, NCU's George Floyd scholarship is not all about grades. It's based on service and leadership potential.

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