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'We Have A Powerful Community': North Mpls. Barbershop Owner Starts Scholarship Program

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Minneapolis father and business owner is making a difference, one scholarship at a time. Three years after launching the Wilson Image College Scholarship program, Teto Wilson is still making an impact on the city's north side.

"My daughter is the reason why I decided to start this scholarship program," Wilson said. "Watching how she applied for different scholarships - some that she received and some she did not - I just decided 'What can I do to help make sure our scholars, inner city scholars, are able to get scholarships?"

The barber and owner of Wilson's Image Barbers and Stylists decided to start his own scholarship program. Wilson paid out the first scholarships himself and the idea quickly gained interest from the community. Business owners, customers and north side residents wanted to get involved.

"Initially I planned on not doing any fundraising. I was just going to let it be just right out of my pocket, " Wilson said. "Then it just started to grow organically."

So far, the program has delivered 10 scholarships valued at $1,000 each. Recent recipients include Ayo Olagbaju, a 2020 graduate of Patrick Henry High School.

"Youth today, we're the future of what the community will become," Olagbaju said. "To have someone who sees who you are already and is willing to invest in that … that's a great experience."

Olagbaju is a freshman at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is studying remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her mother, Shana Moses, is a longtime resident of the city's north side and called the scholarship program meaningful.

"In the same streets that I walked, the same schools I attended, to see right within that same community, people are still pouring in … it just creates a warmth inside," Moses said. "I hope that she holds it close, you know when things get tough – as life may do – that she still knows that there's a village, that there's a support network that is here and it extends beyond blood relations."

The community support has also made a difference for Alaja Miller, a freshman at University of Minnesota – Mankato and Wilson Image College Scholarship recipient. The COVID-19 pandemic halted her plans to work and save money for college expenses.

"It's made a huge difference because I actually had to pay most of my tuition out of my own pocket," Miller said. "With contributions from my family and Teto I was actually able to pay in full my tuition without any financial aid or loans or anything like that."

Wilson's ultimate goal is to provide full-ride scholarships for participating scholars in future.

"I believe in the people and I believe they believe in me," said Wilson. "I've been in business here in North Minneapolis for 13 years. We have a powerful community."

For more information about the Wilson's Image Scholarship Program, click here.

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