Imani SkipwithApril 29, 2020 (Jackson, Miss.) - “All I could do after the call was drop to my knees, cry, and thank God,” was Imani Skipwith's response when NYT best-selling author Angie Thomas told her she had won a full-ride scholarship to Belhaven University.

Skipwith, a senior at Mississippi School of the Arts, was selected winner of the Angie Thomas Writers Scholarship, based her writing submission and experience. Thomas said, “Imani is truly gifted from God. That was clear the moment I first read her entry. The Belhaven Creative Writing program was made for writers like her. It's an honor to know that such a brilliant young woman will benefit from a scholarship in my honor. I have no doubt that Imani will soar under the guidance of the entire Belhaven family.”

The scholarship was designed to help young aspiring writers who need the extra support to make their dreams of authorship a reality. Thomas encouraged students to apply and observed, “Let's face it - financial hardship is a huge obstacle for so many young people when it comes to college; it was one for me. This scholarship will remove that stress for Imani and allow her to put more energy into her studies.” Skipwith agrees and adds, “I come from a single parent household, and there are two children - my sister and me. It takes an enormous financial burden off of my family's shoulders.”

Thomas, along with Belhaven officials surprised Skipwith on Wednesday, April 8 to deliver the good news during a Zoom call. “It was such a jaw-dropping moment,” said Skipwith. “My mother and I both cried, and everyone on the call was teary-eyed. Words cannot explain the amount of joy and shock I felt when I heard her (Thomas) tell me that I won. I look up to her, and it means a lot to me that someone so spectacular has found faith and promise in my work.”

Skipwith is the first student to win the scholarship, which covers tuition, room and board at the University for four years. The full-ride scholarship is awarded to only one incoming freshman each year. Other applicants received partial scholarships as part of the Angie Thomas Writers Scholarship.

“The creative writing program at Belhaven University is so happy to welcome Imani Skipwith as our first writing scholar,” said Chair and Professor of Creative Writing Dr. Randall Smith. “Imani brings with her to Belhaven not only a portfolio of already accomplished writing, but also a portfolio of life experiences and artful reflections on those experiences that are so necessary for good writers. She will blaze her own writing trail at Belhaven and beyond as she follows in the footsteps of Angie Thomas.”

These scholarships were named in honor of Belhaven alumna Angie Thomas '11, author of New York Times best-selling novels On the Come Up and The Hate U Give. The Hate U Give was developed into a major motion picture from Fox 2000. Thomas is also working as a producer on the film version of On the Come Up. “It means the world to me to have a scholarship in my honor and to know that Belhaven has this level of pride for me,” said Thomas. “Even more than that, it's incredible to know that this scholarship will play a huge role in a young writer's life. That alone is an honor.”