USC Upstate Alum Ryon Smalls Creates Scholarship for Students from Underserved Communities

April 7, 2021 at 11:12 am

USC Upstate alum Ryon Smalls, ’14, continues to rise to the occasion, this time, by establishing an annual scholarship aimed to encourage students coming from historically underserved communities to continue their education at USC Upstate.

Smalls, primarily raised in Charleston, S.C., graduated from James Island Charter High School in 2007. He attended USC Upstate and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with a concentration in education. He currently serves as a first lieutenant in the South Carolina National Guard and is a practicing attorney in the Charlotte, N.C., area. Smalls is co-founder of Race 4 Achievement (R4A), a nonprofit that is the namesake of this newly established scholarship.

“Through the Race 4 Achievement Scholarship at USC Upstate, we hope to continue driving our mission by helping students overcome socioeconomic challenges to pursue their educational goals,” said Smalls, the winner of USC Upstate’s 2020 Outstanding Alumni Award. “I see this as an opportunity to give back to my alma mater, support my fellow Spartans and encourage other USC Upstate alumni to do the same.”

As a student at USC Upstate, Smalls was an active member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He actively participated in service learning projects in the community. These experiences inspired him to begin conceptualizing R4A during his junior year.

“I realized I had been exposed to people, experiences and resources that others had not, which contributed to my desire to achieve,” Smalls said. “I felt called to help others access opportunities that could set them on a path to success. My fraternity brothers and I began talking about what we could do to give back to the community and that’s where Race 4 Achievement was born.”

Since its inception, R4A has grown into a thriving nonprofit that supports individuals living in communities that need resources and aid the most. Through R4A, Smalls and his fellow co-founders have created programs to help young people, ages 13-18, on their journey toward making life-impacting decisions about their education and their future.

R4A has already established five scholarships serving students attending universities in the Charleston area. Smalls said the USC Upstate Scholarship is the “next step” in expanding the organization’s support for students from underserved communities.

“This is a great opportunity,” Smalls said. “One of the greatest things about attending USC Upstate is the people you meet on campus and throughout the Upstate region. Partnering with the USC Upstate Foundation to establish this scholarship will help bring people from all communities together to support the next generation of Spartans.”

To contribute to the Race 4 Achievement Scholarship’s success and growth, please make a donation at and mark “Race 4 Achievement” as your designation of choice.

Applications for the Race 4 Achievement Scholarship should be made through Academic Works. Applicants must be from historically disadvantaged communities who are rising sophomores, juniors or seniors with a minimum 2.3 GPA. They must submit a 300-word essay expressing their academic and professional goals for the next 10 years.