One summer night in 1993 the life of a promising young high school graduate and his dreams came to an end with the sound of a single gunshot.
Seventeen-year-old Wahid Abdullah, the eldest son of Muslim immigrants from Africa’s Ivory Coast, was murdered by the hand of a fellow youth in an attempted carjacking.
Abdullah, an above-average student and gifted athlete, was just a few months shy of beginning his first year at the Ohio State University.
Ironically, this slaying echoed the words and fears of the victim. Shortly before Abdullah’s passing, he had won a local oratorical contest. His speech, “A Calling to Youth: Restore the Sacredness of Human Life — Stop the Violence,” called out to African-Americans to end youth violence and regain a sense of religious harmony.
Abdullah’s story left a lasting impression on local television personality Jim Bucher, inspiring him and a few of Wahid’s friends to establish the Wahid Abdullah Memorial Fund, founded by Jim Bucher through the African-American Community Fund of The Dayton Foundation. To date, the fund has awarded $11,500 in scholarships to help Montgomery County high school graduates pursue a college degree in communications or journalism.
Q: Tell us about Wahid Abdullah. How did you meet him, and why did you decide to honor his memory through a scholarship fund?
A: In the summer of 1993, during my television reporting days, I featured my local grocery store in Dayton’s Five Oaks neighborhood. While there, I ran into Wahid Abdullah, who was purchasing pop and some candy, just like I did at that age.
He was a bright young guy, built like a tank but really friendly and with great aspirations. A wrestler at Colonel White High School who was scheduled to start college in the fall, he was a promising young man! When my feature aired, I included Wahid in the background shopping.
A week later Wahid’s picture showed up on the newscast again, but this time as a victim of a senseless act of violence. The ironic thing about this was Wahid had just completed an award-winning essay about youth and violence in the African-American community. I’m not sure why his death affected me the way it did, but I felt like something good had to come out it. So, together with many of my on-air and behind-the-scenes friends and family, we raised money for a scholarship fund in Wahid’s name.
In Wahid’s essay that won him a scholarship, he talked about how he wanted to help young people get off the streets and live productive lives by helping them to get a higher education. This fund, in a sense, is a way of helping Wahid to fulfill that dream.
Q: How does this fund help Montgomery County students? What does the generosity that you are able to share mean to you?
A: Each year we award a $1,000 college scholarship to a Montgomery County student who is interested in majoring in communications. To date, we have been able to award a total of 16 scholarships. Although $1,000 won’t pay full college tuition, it can help students with books, lab fees or needed supplies.
It means the world to me and everyone involved to be able to award the Wahid Abdullah Memorial Scholarship each year, especially since we know that we’re helping a little, as Wahid would have wanted. In fact, each year I personally go to the recipient’s school to present the award myself.
Q: How have you raised funds for the Wahid Abdullah Memorial Fund?
A: At first, we asked anyone and everyone to donate what they could. Later, Lisa Grigsby, my pal at the old Joker’s Comedy Café, allowed me to put together a yearly Comedy for a Cause benefit, which helped us grow the fund. Now I donate a portion of my speaking fees to the fund.
Q: How does the African-American Community Fund of The Dayton Foundation help you help others?
A: A few years after we established the fund, we transferred it to The Dayton Foundation under the umbrella of the African-American Community Fund (AACF). We knew the fund would grow and help students for years to come.
The AACF is a wonderful program that is set up to help people be successful when it comes to helping others. The Foundation helps me administer and promote the scholarship to students each year. I know that I am in good company with all the individuals who have established charitable funds.
Q: What inspires you about this community?
A: People here in Dayton and the Miami Valley are eager to help. All you have to do is ask. That is a tradition we can be proud of.
I hope that by sharing Wahid’s story, as an example of how we were able to bring hope to others out of a tragic situation, inspires people to help us to continue to help students.
For those individuals who would like to help, they can send checks made payable to The Dayton Foundation at 40 N. Main Street, Suite 500, Dayton, Ohio 45423, or donate on the Foundation’s website at daytonfoundation.org/ccgift.
High school students, who are interested in communications or journalism, can apply for the Wahid Abdullah Memorial Fund scholarship by visiting daytonfoundation.org and applying through ScholarshipCONNECT.
Q: What advice can you share about giving to the community?
A: It’s always wonderful to give back in your hometown. It’s a great feeling knowing that you are helping your friends and neighbors.
Q: How would you complete this sentence, “My giving makes me feel____”?
A: … Wonderful, knowing that The Wahid Abdullah Memorial Fund, founded by Jim Bucher is safe and secure with the African-American Community Fund of The Dayton Foundation. I couldn’t ask for a better steward.
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The Dayton Foundation has been helping people help others since 1921 by managing charitable funds, awarding grants to nonprofits and launching community initiatives. Contact the Foundation at (937) 222-0410 or visit www.daytonfoundation.org.