Master of Social Work student Anthony D. Jones has been awarded the 431 Exchange Scholarship. He will receive a cash grant of $1,431 toward his tuition and other fees.
“I am honored that the members of this organization have decided to award me with this scholarship,” Jones said.
The 431 Exchange Place is a non-profit dedicated to supporting educational equality, adult education and social justice initiatives throughout the U.S. Their programs include advocacy, fundraising and a scholarship fund.
The school was the inspiration of Father Timothy Gibbons, a Catholic priest who had grown up on a farm in Illinois and who had never been to the South before he arrived in New Orleans for his first assignment. On the eve of the school’s opening, Father Gibbons was kicked out of the city by his superiors, who were pressured to take measures to derail the school. To keep the school moving forward, he suggested that Alice Geoffray, one of the program’s teachers, take his place.
What originated as The Adult Education Center (AEC) on Exchange Place in New Orleans, the center would later provide innovative vocational training to 431 inspirational women from 1965 to 1972.
These women became the first black secretaries to integrate the city’s multinational corporations and local businesses. Eventually, their impact spread throughout the South and helped pave the way for equal employment opportunity for all American citizens.
“I was initially drawn to the program by the stories of resilience told by the women who were involved,” Jones said. “I am thrilled to be standing on the shoulders of giants such as Alice Geoffray to continue supporting education equality and social justice throughout the country.
In a book soon to be released entitled Exchange Place, there are details about the long-rumored conspiracy to kill the school-a threat that reached the highest levels of government. During this crisis, the teachers and graduates of the school, along with several visionary business leaders, including the school’s landlord, rallied to keep the center alive.
Jones says a quote by Pamela Cole Wimbley, one of the sisters who attended the school is “deeply personal to him.”
In 2019, Wimbley, referring to the Adult Education Center said, “We exchanged a life of poverty for a life of prosperity.”
“When I think of this quote, I am reminded of my mothers’ immigration story and how she exchanged and sacrificed so much for me to have a life of prosperity,” Jones said.
“Because of her sacrifice, I am a first-generation college graduate and soon to become the first to also earn a master’s degree in my family. Afterward, I plan to attend a doctoral program in school psychology.”