Emmy Winner Sheryl Lee Ralph Helps Jackson State Rise Further By Helping Raise $300,000 in Scholarship Money

Just after being honored for her role on “Abbot Elementary” she made it a point to show why supporting HBCUs is important.

When she won an Emmy Award in September for her role on “Abbot Elementary,” Sheryl Lee Ralph’s acceptance speech was as much of a showstopper as her weekly performances on the show. With an operatic voice, she declared “I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs!”

Two weeks later on Sept. 29, Ralph lent her artist’s voice to supporting HBCU students by bringing it to a Jackson State University annual Mary E. Peoples Scholarship Luncheon that raised more than $300,000.

"If you can, help somebody else because I really believe the future of the world is in some of these classrooms that we are very slow to help," said Ralph, who won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. "You know, we don't know who is going to cure cancer, [it] could be right here at Jackson State."

Courtesy: Jackson State University

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Although she portrays kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard on the show, it was higher education she has placed emphasis on. After she won the award, she was advised to call off all of her public appearances. But she told attendees at the luncheon that she was adamant about coming to give the keynote speech.

"I said, ‘this is an HBCU and we cannot cancel them,’ and I'm here," Ralph told the audience, which responded with applause. She explained how many students face difficult obstacles to achieve an education. She described specific challenges students deal with from a physical and mental standpoint.

"These children some of them dare to have a dream to be better, with so many of them coming from some very challenging situations. Do you know what it's like to wake up with hunger in your belly and still dream of the food of education?" asked Ralph, a wife and mother of three.

Ralph continued by asking the audience to put themselves in the situation of a student coming from harsh conditions. She explained to the crowd the value of having self-love as it can have a negative effect on the African American community if they don’t love themselves.

RELATED: Sheryl Lee Ralph Explains How She Pulled Off Her Emmys Speech

"Respect what you see because you deserve it and more. If you can figure out how to do it for yourself, do it for somebody else. And stop doing the same thing over and over, thinking you're going to get a different result," she demanded.

At the end of her speech Ralph decided to take a strong stance and call out the audience to donate.

Listeners stood up and began to commit to donate between $5 and $5,000. The effort helped fundraise about $48,000, adding to the 245,000 that had already been raised.

Kathleen Peoples, daughter of Jackson State President Emeritus John A. Peoples Jr., and Mary E. Peoples, praised the event.

"I'm just pleased to be able to be there [sic] to represent them," Kathleen told WLBT. "They are both in more delicate health now, so I've come out to this event, and I have been taking lots of pictures, so I can show them. I know they'll be very proud that their efforts and the efforts of everyone here will promote student education."

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