Shante Bell (left), the College's alumni and annual giving coordinator, and Ryaan Boyd sign the documents for establishing a scholarship.
Ryaan Boyd is a successful federal contractor working in the nation’s capital. He has a master’s in business administration from American University, and a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship from Norfolk State University. He spent a year at the University of Houston studying business administration, and a year at Virginia Peninsula Community College, studying business and information technology.
When he decided to create a college scholarship, one of those four institutions immediately came to mind: Virginia Peninsula. It’s where he built the foundation for his success even though he wasn’t there long enough to earn a degree.
“I thought it was important to start here first,” he said of creating the Boyd HBCU Transfer Scholarship for VPCC students. “That’s where I started.”
It’s also where, in January 2012, he earned a scholarship from the College’s Educational Foundation. Now, he will award two $600 scholarships a semester, one for a male student and one for a female student. The first scholarships will be awarded for the spring 2023 semester.
“When I went (to VPCC), I started realizing just how great of an experience it was, and it opened doors for me and connected me with people that I wouldn't have been connected to before,” he said.
There are few requirements for the scholarship, which combine Boyd’s passions, in addition to the minimum 2.0 GPA required to remain enrolled in the College.
One is a student must be transferring to an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). He views community colleges and HBCUs as underappreciated assets in the higher education system.
Even though he graduated from Kecoughtan High School with a 2.99 GPA (which still haunts him it wasn’t 3.0), there were a lot of colleges he couldn’t get into. He soon found out Virginia Peninsula was a great fit.
“No. 1, it gave me the ability to get my grades to a place where I can have the confidence to go to another university,” he said. “No. 2, it allowed me to take these courses and figure out different things in an affordable way.”
After a year at VPCC, he transferred to Houston before moving on to Norfolk State University. Attending an HBCU was important because it allowed him to be himself among other Black students. He didn’t stand out because of his race.
“I realized just how safe a space that was, and how cool it was that you don’t have to try to be anything. I gained so much from that,” he said. “Even after graduating from an HBCU, I just saw the connections and the opportunities that I got from companies because I went to an HBCU.”
A second requirement for the scholarship is the student must be pursuing a career in technology, entrepreneurship or a sports-related field.
“Technology, that’s a budding industry that has a low barrier to entry,” he said. “That can give people access to financial opportunity they may not have had before, and it’s right in front of us.”
Boyd played basketball in high school, and knows how important sports can be, but it’s not just about playing. Sports provide opportunities beyond one’s playing days, be it in management, marketing or some other area.
“We just can’t take away how vital sports is to this area, and how passionate people are and how excited people get about sports,” he said.
Taking advantage of the community’s passion for sports, and at the same time communicating the importance of education, he organized a basketball doubleheader at Hampton High School in October to benefit the scholarship fund. The games, one men’s and one women’s, featured former Peninsula area players.
The event, which was sponsored by the Paula Boyd State Farm agency, raised more than $1,200. The success caught Boyd by surprise, but credits the support of Mikol Mills, founder and director of Peninsula Former Athletes, which helped organize the event. The group's missions include giving back to the community and providing mentorships.
“I didn’t realize how many other people felt so strongly about it, and people were excited to be part of it,” he said.
With the success, he’s thinking of have two events a year: one in the spring to fund the fall scholarships, and one in the fall to fund the following spring’s scholarships.
It all goes back to his time at Virginia Peninsula. He remembers passionate professors who were engaging and helped him along. He remembers meeting people from all over the area, not just Hampton.
“The students, no matter where you were in life, we had almost an affinity for each other that we knew what we were all trying to do,” he said. “That sense of connection just felt good. I did not get that at any other university than this.”
He also got the chance to succeed.
“It gave me that foundational piece to transfer to the University of Houston, which gave me the skills ultimately, to come back and transfer to Norfolk State, who offered me a scholarship,” he said.
That continued into his professional career and beyond.
“Just finishing my MBA recently at American University, I realized just how important this institution was for me.”
Cyndie Callaway, VPCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement, said these scholarships, in turn, are important to the college community. They help students save money. They make students aware of the great institutions that make up the HBCUs.
“Finally, it demonstrates the philanthropic spirit of a former VPCC student who credits his successful higher education journey to the excellent instruction and personal attention he received while attending his local community college and who wants to assist others taking this journey as well," she said.
For more information on scholarships available at the College, or to donate to an existing one, go to https://www.vpcc.edu/foundation/home.