By providing financial assistance and deserved recognition, HOLLA! aims to empower students to maximize their full potential and make a meaningful impact on their futures and the world around them.

Named for two influential members of Anson County:  one a teacher and the other a founding member of HOLLA!. Each scholarship is in the amount of $500. They are awarded to Anson High School’s college-bound seniors.  Seniors are selected by their grades, community involvement, volunteerism, and future goals.

Scholarship Recipients​

Student has ‘no worries for rest of her college days’
Role in Lion King Jr. leads to full music scholarship through HOLLA! arts program
(Anson County, NC – Sept. 25, 2023) – By Kimberly Harrington
When Kenya Myles auditioned for “The Lion King Jr.” play for a local community organization called HOLLA!, she was hoping for the role of Nala, the lead female lioness. But instead, she was offered the part of Rafiki.
“When I suggested Rafiki, she asked, ‘Why I got to be the monkey?’” said Leon Gatewood, CEO and founder of HOLLA!, which stands for Helping Our Loved ones Learn and Achieve, a nonprofit based in Anson County, NC. “She eventually accepted the role.”
“At first, I was very reluctant to play Rafiki simply because as a dark-skinned girl, I have had my fair share of being called ignorant names – a monkey being one of them,” Myles said. “But as we got deeper into the story, I started to build a connection with my character Rafiki because I felt like we held the same job: ‘to keep the balance.’”
“She could sing,” Gatewood said of Myles, who became an inspiration and leader to the entire cast.
That audition was five years ago when Myles was in the eighth grade at Anson Middle School in Wadesboro. Today, she is enrolled as a freshman at Livingstone College
 in Salisbury on a full music scholarship – and she has her role as Rafiki to thank for it.
HOLLA! took some cast members from the play to visit Livingstone College to show appreciation to its retiring president, Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., said Gatewood, who is an alumnus of Livingstone. HOLLA! had previously partnered with the college on various projects, he said.
“Kenya was asked to sing for Dr. Jenkins because we really wanted to show him that we appreciated him. When Kenya finished singing, Dr. Jenkins told her she was the type of student he needed at Livingstone,” Gatewood said. “Then offered her a full music scholarship.”
Myles said it wasn’t real for her until she received her scholarship offer letter in the mail. “I was ecstatic. I felt truly proud of myself for the first time in my life.”
According to its website, HOLLA!
 was founded in 2005 to support the educational system in Anson County. Living in a small poor community limits opportunities for young people and HOLLA! was birthed to fill the gap for the underprivileged. Its inspiration comes from the words of Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
The nonprofit focused on a community center, mentoring programs, and a tennis team, Gatewood said. An arts program was not on the radar until officials from the N.C. Arts Council approached HOLLA! about being a provisional partner to help expose the county to diverse artists and art forms, he said.
Through the partnership, HOLLA! has sponsored talent shows, poetry writing classes, poetry slams, photography contests, and rhythm and blues festivals, he said.
Gatewood said one weekend, he attended a production of the “The Lion King Jr.” performed by middle-schoolers in another county and was inspired to bring such a production to his hometown.
HOLLA! produced three performances with a cast of middle-school students, all to rave reviews, he said. That license has expired and HOLLA! is applying to Disney again, but this time, to produce the play with children at Morven Elementary School in Morven.
“Our better understanding of the power of the arts necessitates us to present the arts to youth at the earliest possible age,” Gatewood said.
The performing arts can positively impact the lives of young people. “The arts play roles in addressing trauma and healing as it can support social and learning skills of youth,” said Gatewood, who shared that at an early age, Myles lost her mother to gun violence.
Myles said being a part of the cast helped to improve her communication skills and taught her how to better interact with others and how to take orders from authority. When she was elected leader of the cast, she said it gave her a better sense of maturity and responsibility.
“I got to create my own little family,” she said. “We put so much time and energy into the show that sometimes we would forget we were acting, and it became second nature to just be a village.”
Myles will major in music at Livingstone College and continue to pursue the performing arts. She said her minor will be in psychology to study psychoanalysis for underprivileged and abused youth.
Myles said she didn’t see college in her immediate future. “I probably wouldn’t have even considered college until I could pay for it myself, but when given an opportunity like this, you’d have to be sick in the head not to take it,” she said.
As the “Hakuna Matata”
 song goes, now she has no worries for the rest of her days.
An opportunity like what happened to Myles is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Gatewood admits. This is proof of the value of the arts, he said.
And Myles said her experience is proof of the value of HOLLA! in the community.
“They (HOLLA!) strive for a better community and the consistency of helping others has been very influential to myself and others,” she said. “I will always stand proudly behind HOLLA!”