Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholarship

The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship is awarded to Master's Degree candidates in social work who demonstrate an interest in or has experience with health/mental health practice and have a commitment to working in African American communities. Previous recipients now work in hospitals, medical clinics, and social services agencies that provide treatment and specialized services to African American clients and others have gone into broader leadership services.

The NASW Foundation thanks the Tamara L. Harris Foundation for its support of the Lyons Scholarship program 2021 - 2023.  This grant funding allowed the NASW Foundation to award an increased number of Lyons scholarshipsand at a higher amount per studentalong with leadership development opportunities / virtual participation in NASW's Leadership Academy.  

The NASW Foundation also wishes to extend special thanks to The New York Community Trust (NYCT) for its generous support of the Lyons Scholarship program as part of Social Work HEALS in 2015-2020.  With support from The NYCT, the HEALS program expanded the education and training of healthcare social workers at the BSW, MSW, PhD/DSW and post-doctoral levels to improve the delivery of healthcare services in the United States.  

About The Scholarship And Its Namesake

The scholarship program is a memorial to Verne LaMarr Lyons, a social worker and NASW national staff member who died in 1989, while waiting for a heart transplant. Lyons committed his life to increasing awareness of pernicious health concerns affecting African Americans such as insufficient prenatal care, infant mortality, AIDS, cirrhosis, and general life expectancy. 

Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship Guidelines

The Lyons Scholarships are awarded based on projected annual earnings and contributions.  The number of scholarship awards - and amount -  for the 2024- 2025 academic year will be announced in January 2024.

Applicants must be a NASW member and have applied to or have been accepted into an accredited MSW Program (payment of the award will be contingent on the full admission of the candidate into the program). In addition, students must have potential for completing an MSW Program and have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or above. Students enrolled in an MSW program for more than one year may reapply to the Foundation for part or all of a second year.

Application Requirements For The Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship

  • NASW membership, in good standing, is a mandatory requirement to receive an NASW Foundation Scholarship Award. Awardees must maintain active membership throughout the award period. 
  • Applicants who are current members in good standing can apply for a scholarship using their current membership ID number.
  • To apply for NASW membership visit the NASW website (Online Join) or download and complete NASW‘s “Membership Application" found at "Online Join." New members will receive email confirmation of membership, which will include a member ID and password.  Applicants awaiting acceptance into a CSWE-accredited program must include, with the membership form, their application to the MSW program with a letter from the college/university verifying the application has been received
  • Non-members interested in applying can join NASW:  1) if they have a social work degree (BSW/MSW) or are matriculating in a CSWE-accredited social work program; or 2) are enrolled in or awaiting acceptance into a CSWE-accredited program. 
  • Applicants either must be or plan to be enrolled in a social work degree program to maintain eligibility.  Award is disbursed in two installments, at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters.  Applicants graduating before the 1st installment are not eligible.  
  • Application form.
  • Biographical essay (two typed, double-spaced pages). The essay must address career goals, interests, and work, volunteer, and school/field experience related to work in health/mental health practice with African Americans and a statement of merit and need for the award. Applicants will be rated on each of these elements. 
  • Two letters of support from professional references (you will be asked to provide the names and email addresses of two professional references).  Letters can be written by a candidate's professors; individuals or leaders of groups with whom the candidate has worked in a helping capacity; an employer/supervisor; and so on.  Character references or references from clients or family members will not be accepted. If the applicant is applying for renewed funding from the NASW Foundation, one of the two references must be obtained from the applicant’s academic advisor. 
  • Official copy of a transcript from the most recent academic work (undergraduate or graduate). Transcript may be opened to make photocopies. Unofficial transcripts will NOT be accepted
  • Signed release of information.

Only completed applications will be considered. Questions should be directed to:

Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship Recipients


  • Jeneba “Zaynab” Berety, Loyola University Chicago
  • Markie Bledsoe, New York University 
  • BreAnna McKenzie, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
  • Christian Ohonba, University of Houston
  • Andria Reta, Azusa Pacific University
  • LaNeda Wright, Virginia Commonwealth University


Student Directory

  • Esther Abiara, University of Oklahoma, Tulsa
  • Felicia Daniels, Case Western Reserve University
  • Adam Fryer, University at Buffalo
  • Amy L. Ortiz, Fordham University
  • Oluwadara “Dara” Oloyede, Simmons University
  • Maryah Thompson, Columbia University 



  • Lauren M. Dennis, University of Georgia 
  • André Marcel Harris, University of Houston 
  • Jane Marshall, Salem State University 
  • Toria N. Pettway, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University 
  • Riley Raynor, The University of Alabama 
  • Modupe Olayinka Billie Edogun, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



  • Mervin Lawson Brandy, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Bianca Hannon, Kennesaw State University
  • Aaron Quick, North Carolina State University
  • Antonio Shallowhorn, University of California, Los Angeles


  • Indonesia Carter, Columbia University
  • Dina Exavier, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Christopher Marcell, The University of Southern Mississippi
  • Seghel Yohannes, University of California, Berkeley




  • Kianna Goodwin, University of Wisconsin – Madison 
  • Leigh Greene, Case Western Reserve University
  • Change Kwesele, University of Michigan
  • Ayanna Robinson, New York University




  • Brianna Douglas, California State University - East Bay
  • Shani Gardner, University of Pennsylvania
  • DaQuala Hunt, Case Western Reserve University
  • Mavis Smith, New York University




  • Chetakwa Enunwa, University of CA Los Angeles
  • Dionne Greenhill, Norfolk State University
  • Krystal Reddick, Fordham University
  • Courtney Tucker, Smith College




  • Ariana Allensworth, University of California, Berkeley
  • David Hughley, Long Island University-Brooklyn
  • Alletia Smith, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Katherane Worthington, University of Maryland




  • Annalise Catharine Everett, University of Chicago, School of Social Services Administration
  • Teresa J. Thompson, Hunter College, Silberman School of Social Work
  • Mathieu Joshuah McNeil, Boston College, Graduate School of Social Work
  • Walter Raleigh Higgs III, Simmons College, Graduate School of Social Work




  • Allyson Black-Foley, Smith College School for Social Work
  • Gilbert Nick, Columbia University, School of Social Work




  • Jaime Ayers, Florida State University, College of Social Work
  • Cherish Norman, University of South Carolina, College of Social Work




  • Jacquelyn Coats, Washington University, George Warren Brown School of Social Work 







  • Alex J. Rhodes, University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams School of Social Work 




  • Pamela A. Smith, Jackson State University, School of Social Work













  • Michael Anthony Burke, Southern Connecticut State University


2018-2019 Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholar - Change Kwesele

2018-2019 Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholar, Change Kwesele said her award will allow her to pursue opportunities for advancement, "Opportunities to network at different conferences including the NASW Conference."

2018-2019 Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholar Kianna Goodwin

2018-2019 Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholar Kianna Goodwin said of her award, "Receiving this award is an honor and it has a significant impact on my work in mental health supporting black women. This award is not only acknowledgement, but financial support in this work."

Young Woman Engrossed In Application At Table

Read bios of current NASW Foundation Scholars and Fellows by following this link>>


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