Ja’Niya LaBeaux, a 2021 Waterloo East High School graduate, is the recipient of Wartburg College’s Harry and Polly Slife Minority Scholarship.
LaBeaux will major in sociology with a concentration in criminology and criminal justice. She is the daughter of Keisha Montgomery-Ramirez.
“Ja’Niya is gifted with an amazing curiosity and a strong desire to learn at a high level. She has
true leadership skills in and out of the classroom where she is able to discuss complex and sensitive topics with nuance and kindness,” Karla Koch, an English teacher at East, wrote in her recommendation letter. “Ja’Niya is compassionate about the issues we analyze and
compassionate with her fellow classmates about their issues, and she works to move the conversation forward. She seeks change rather than just discussion.”
LaBeaux hopes to use her college degree to eventually seek change in the criminal justice system.
“I’m not sure where I will go or what I am going to do, but I want to make a difference in the lives of minorities, especially, who have served their time and are re-entering life after prison,” she said.
The Slifes were Cedar Falls residents who died Jan. 2, 1994, in a car accident east of Decorah. The couple was honored in 1988 as Eastern Iowa’s “Outstanding Philanthropists.” Harry Slife had been president of Rath Packing Co. and Black Hawk Broadcasting (KWWL), was a state senator, served on the state Board of Regents (1973-79), and was a Wartburg regent (1980 until his death). Their memory lives on through the Polly and Harry Slife Family Fund. The college annually partners with the organization to award a full-tuition scholarship to one African-American student from the Waterloo Community School District. Awards are renewable up to four years.
“This scholarship will help me achieve my goals in so many different ways. I am blessed to have this opportunity to show my peers and my family that if you set your mind to something you can achieve your goals,” said LaBeaux, who will be the first in her family to attend college. “Receiving a scholarship has been a goal of mine since I was in elementary school because I knew I couldn’t afford college without a scholarship. Also, I want other youth in the community to know that I am not the only one able to get a scholarship; it’s possible for them, too.”