Foundation is mother’s gift to son’s memory

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Lekitha Hill

Lekitha Hill and son, Dayeveon Hill, taking a selfie after a football game.

CLARKSDALE – The shooting death of a star athlete in February prompted creation of a foundation here focused on helping underprivileged youth steer away from the streets and get financial support for college.

After the passing of her only child, Dayeveon Hill – a senior at Clarksdale High School and star football player — Lekitha Hill wanted to not only preserve his legacy, but establish something that could help others.

She created the Daye 5 Foundation, a nonprofit that grants $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors who want to attend college. The foundation also provides assistance to community members in need, she said.

“It’s kids that don’t have the finances or things to start off in college that would really help them,” said Hill. “I want to give kids the opportunity to feel like they’re worth it.”

The scholarship is not awarded to those with high grade point averages or ACT scores. Hill said it’s for kids with good character, community service participation and who are striving to do better. The foundation board reviews applications by students before selecting a scholarship winner, she said.

Because the foundation has only recently been established, Hill said, only one student from Clarksdale High will receive the Daye5 scholarship this year. She said that because people have responded well to her initiative, she anticipates that students from other schools in the town will be able to receive scholarships in the future.

“Whether its one student from every school or two students from every school, we just want to give everybody a chance,” said Hill.

Bradford W Fair, Sr., CEO of Royal Funeral Home, a board member of the foundation, said he laid Dayeveon to rest and helped Hill start the foundation. He said Hill wanted to use her son’s life as a lesson to others so they won’t be a victim to gun violence.

“To keep the fire going in the community, the best way to do it is be involved and show people we’re making a difference,” said Fair, a candidate for Ward 1 and candidate for Commissioner Ward 1 in the May municipal elections.

Hill said she was inspired to do something positive for the youth in the community to help them make better decisions.

“There are kids out here that just need somebody to listen to them and talk to them and motivate them,” said Hill. “I just thought that Clarksdale really needs this.”

Fair said he hopes the community realizes there are other alternatives besides shooting someone.

“Drop the guns and pick up the books,” said Fair. “One of the major topics (here) is crime and how do we stop that and it starts with being advocates in the community and showing that we care.”

Lekitha Hill post on Facebook

Senior poster of Dayeveon Hill

According to Hill, on the evening of Dayeveon’s death, he was approached by three of his male peers and got into an argument. He was shot twice by one of the males – once in the chest and once in the arm.

Although it hurts to have lost her only child, Hill said the positive feedback from the community eases her pain a little.

“For him to be remembered by so many people and just the mention of his name… everybody knew him and there’s never nothing negative to say. That makes me feel good. That makes me feel like I did what I was supposed to do as a parent,” said Hill.

Hill said she doesn’t want her initiative to stop at being a foundation distributing scholarships. She envisions it expanding into an outreach program to interact more with youth.

“I think that it (the foundation) has the power to change a lot of lives in Clarksdale,” said Nickalus Jones, a senior at Clarksdale High School. “It will help the community by influencing our youth and also granting two seniors every year with a scholarship.”

Last month, after participating in a week-long documentary photography workshop hosted by award-winning filmmakers Chandler Griffin and Alison Fast in Clarksdale, Tyler Yarbrough, a student at Clarksdale High School, created a five-minute photo documentary on his cousin and classmate, Dayeveon.

To see the documentary about Dayeveon, click here.