With the help of the Carl Touhey Foundation and an anonymous donor, Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) has announced the Henry Johnson Scholarship, which will offer five eighth-grade students of color from the City of Albany the opportunity to attend CBA tuition-free starting in the fall of 2021.

Galal Cancer, now an Affirmative Action Compliance Officer for Albany County, will serve as one of the alumni mentors who will be partnered with one scholarship winner throughout high school. Graduating from CBA in 2011, Cancer, an Arbor Hill native, not only knows the city but the shortage of opportunities facing many inner-city students on a daily basis. 

“When I think about change, I think about growing, about being outside of my comfort zone,” Cancer said. “Which I think is going to be a big part of the mentorship with these scholarships, because coming from that area, you’re definitely going to be out of your comfort zone. They need to adapt to a different environment.” 

Henry Johnson Scholarship recipients will receive a full tuition waiver for each of their four years of high school, plus a waiver on all fees, including uniforms. The idea to partner with CBA initially sprouted from an executive board member within the Touhey Foundation who wished to remain anonymous.

“They feel CBA would be a good place for the kids because it's more of a structured environment; it’s protective, it has faith and morals (and) it will teach them all the things that are difficult,” said Colleen Ward, director of Institutional Advancement. 

While the Academy brainstormed with Charles Touhey, executive and president of the Carl Touhey Foundation, on how to make the program successful, he requested to speak with a group of alumni of color, who in the past may have been in a situation mirroring that of prospective students. Alumni discussed their experience at the school and their desire for young men within the Albany community to have the same opportunities CBA afforded them. After confirming interest, it was decided each scholarship recipient would be paired with a mentor who experienced a similar background growing up. 

Cancer, who played basketball at CBA and in college and received his undergraduate degree at Cornell and his Masters of Arts at Kent State, said he is proud of CBA for offering this program to underserved kids in Albany. 

“I’ve kind of been - I don't want to say in these young kids shoes because I don’t know exactly every detail - but I think I could help,” Cancer said. “I’ll be able to relate very well (and) they’ll be able to have that positive, male role model.” 

The Henry Johnson Scholarship - named in honor of the decorated World War I infantry soldier and Albany product - was initially created by alumnus Jelani Cowan (Class of ‘97), a student from inner city Albany who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and now works for Microsoft in Houston. 

“He started this sort of ‘I want to pay homage to Henry Johnson and all the good he did and I want to pass this on’ and the Touhey Foundation loved the name and scholarship” Ward said. “They wanted to make sure there was some kind of pride and history there so they said, ‘We want to be part of this scholarship.’ ” 

To apply, scholarship candidates need to complete the standard CBA application (www.cbaalbany.org) and submit an essay titled, “What are your goals and vision for your future?” Financial need and academic promise will be assessed as part of the standard application process. For more information, prospective parents, students, guidance counselors and other school officials are encouraged to contact Brian O’Connell (oconnell@cbaalbany.org), director of admissions at CBA. The deadline for applications for the Henry Johnson Scholarship is May 1.