D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's new scholarship fund for economically disadvantaged students got a boost yesterday from a Japanese real estate development company, which presented a check for $100,000 to the mayor to help needy "at risk" youth attend the University of the District of Columbia or a vocational school in the city.
Takaji Kobayashi, 34, president of Shuwa Investments Corp., handed over the check to Barry in the mayor's office and said the contribution is part of the firm's "good neighbor" efforts in communities where Shuwa has real estate holdings.
Barry, whose State of the District message Tuesday included an ambitious program to help inner-city youth stay in school and out of trouble with the law, said he hoped to build the fund through other corporate contributions.
"I truly believe that the cycle of poverty can be broken if one receives a good education that leads to solid employment," Barry said. "This generous donation from Shuwa Investments will give us a marvelous start for the scholarship program . . . . We found that in this materialistic society, young people respond to the money."
Audrey Rowe, the mayor's special assistant for human resources development, said the scholarship program will target fourth-grade pupils from poor households. These pupils, selected from 10 classes, will be counseled and monitored and guaranteed scholarships to UDC or a technical school when they graduate from high school.
The scholarship program will aid about 350 students in its first year.
"This is the first actual, tangible business contribution to the fund," said Barry. "We think this will be a catalyst for others."
Under the scholarship program, officials said, an organization or business may sponsor a youth for $8,000 or a class of 35 for $280,000.
Shuwa, which recently purchased the U.S. News & World Report Building here, is a Los Angeles-based firm involved in property development, acquisition and management. Its president is the son of the chairman of the Shuwa Corp. in Tokyo.
The company, which Barry said has no business dealings with the District government, has contributed $700,000 to various programs in Los Angeles and New York, according to company officials.