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 patients. 

The Lyons Scholarship is supplemented by, and currently is part of, the Social Work HEALS program (along with the Jane B. Aron Doctoral Fellowship), which was funded in 2014 by a generous five-year grant from the New York Community Trust Robert and Ellen Popper Scholarship Fund.  The Foundation is pleased to administer this five-year collaborative endeavor of NASW and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

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 Verne LaMarr Lyons Scholarship will be supplemented through, and incorporated into the Social Work HEALS program to increase the annual funding from four scholarships in the amount of $4,150 each to four scholarships in the amount of $5,500 each Historically the Lyons Scholarships have been awarded based on projected annual earnings and contributions. The increased funding will raise the prestige/stature of the Lyons Scholarships and will allow for leadership development opportunities.

A total of $4,000 will be disbursed directly to the recipient’s university. An additional $1,500 will be earmarked for each recipient for conference attendance and leadership development. As part of the Lyons Scholarship Award, the recipients will be expected to attend the Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit in Washington, DC, tentatively scheduled in March 2021.  Funds will not be distributed directly to the recipient.

Students must be an 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 a MSW Program and have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or above. Students enrolled in a master of social work (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. 
  • 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. 
  • Signed release of information.

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

Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial Scholarship Recipients


  • 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


Online applications were accepted January 22 through March 11, 2020.

To read bios of current NASW Foundation Scholars and Fellows follow this link >>

Follow this link for more information about the Social Work HEALS Program >>


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