At a time when many professional and social organizations are awarding scholarships to D.C. high school students as their way of showing "commitment to the community," one group really stands out.

It is the D.C. Black Republican Council, which, with only 112 members, has given out $42,000 in scholarships during the past 18 months.

Whatever you want to say about this small group of black Republicans in this overwhelmingly black Democratic town, they are hard to beat when it comes to supporting the education of this city's youth.

The group is among the top contributors for D.C. student scholarships, according to Florence Ridley, director of student affairs for the D.C. public schools. "They are making a very valuable contribution, far out of proportion to their numbers."

Ridley said 1,414 District students received about $6.8 million in scholarships last year, with the largest scholarships coming from corporations, universities and one anonymous donor who gives $40,000 each year.

The Black Republicans have been able to come up large amounts of cash by appealing mainly to black business leaders and private residents, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Although they do not expect these contributions to translate into any increase in political support, it does seem worthwhile to examine what it is about the Black Republicans that makes them so effective at raising money.

"First of all, it's important to understand that we are not 'black elites,' with a history of what you'd call being financially comfortable or 'manor born,' " said Connie Mack Higgins, chairman of the D.C. Black Republican Council.

"The black aristocracy is in the Democratic Party," he added. "We {the black Republicans} have, by and large, struggled very hard to get an education and get ourselves established in business. We have a strong sense for what it takes to help others do the same."

The D.C. Black Republican Council came up with the idea for scholarships in 1985, the year the group was founded. Like other organizations, the aim was to have an impact on the city in which they operated, and education seemed the way to go. However, instead of holding conferences and seminars on the plight of education in the city, they set out to raise as much money as they could for scholarships.

And the scholarships themselves would be different.

"What I like most about the Black Republicans is that they don't give money just to honor-roll students," Ridley said. "The students are not just college bound, either, but also looking for many kinds of postsecondary education.

"You see, in many instances the students who get the Black Republicans scholarships also work and they don't always perform at peak levels in school because of other responsibilities. This money takes some of the pressures off, and you'd be surprised as to how many of them take off and excel."

So far, 21 students have received $2,000 each from the Black Republicans. And they expect to keep the award money flowing.

"I would say that black Republicans, along with black Democrats, too, believe that the salvation of our race is the building of an educated electorate, not just for political purposes but for the purposes of life," Higgins said.

"All of us want to expose our kids to the awards dinners, to the role models who can show them that they can make it without selling drugs, that they can be successful forces in the community without the negative."

The local Black Republicans are putting a lot of money and a lot of energy into this effort, and while they say no political rewards are expected, there can be little question that they are spreading the seeds of black Republicanism throughout the town.