MINNEAPOLIS — Tito Wilson's barbershop sits on bustling West Broadway in north Minneapolis.
"Myself and the former owner, we got together and closed on the building November last year, and we actually moved in January of this year," said Wilson.
It's a space for conversations inside and outside of the shop.
"I live in this community, I work in this community," he said. "I hear the stories, the cries, the good things that's happening, things that are not so good happening."
Connecting with the community by being in the community, Wilson knew he wanted to do more than just cut hair. He started the Wilson's Image College Scholarship as an initiative to help African-American students not only enroll in college, but graduate.
"It started in 2015, you know, my daughter was filling out applications for college, and so I watched her fill out so many applications, some she got, some she didn't," he said. "I wonder how many families in north Minneapolis have some of the same issues, they want to send their kids to school, but they are unable to get scholarships because of whatever scholarships they can't meet."
More than 35,000 organizations are participating in Give to the Max Day this year. Early giving started on November 1, with many groups already reaching their donation goals.
As a BIPOC serving and led small organization, Wilson says fundraising can sometimes come with it's fair share of challenges.
"My organization may fly under the radar," he said. "I wanted to be really intentional and make sure African-American students are not overlooked right here in north Minneapolis."
His scholarship initiative is for those students with at least a 2.5 GPA. Students applying must have and present a college acceptance letter, and most importantly, "the last one is where it really makes a difference," he said.
"We want to see in an essay how you can use your education to impact the socioeconomic ills that exist in north Minneapolis."
Although Wilson says the program started off small, it quickly grew due to donations and support from the community.
"It started off with me just giving a thousand dollars and was going to split that between two students in the first year, the word got out and donations started pouring in," he said. "Two years ago, I said we're getting a little bit more money, let me boost this up," he said. "And for the past two years, we've given out $2,500 scholarships."
While he continues cutting hair in his shop, he's hoping the students who win will one day return to the communities outside of his shop, paying it forward.
"Just think about where I started from, and what I can do to make that community better," he said.
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