Meet the Howard U. student who won a scholarship from Beyoncé


Maya Rogers. (Courtesy Howard University)

A few years ago, Maya Rogers was in a car crash in Michigan. She’s not quite sure what happened that day in February 2013, but basically, she was rear-ended and her car flipped into a ditch. When everything settled, she noticed the roof of the car was “completely smashed in” and she was leaning to one side, she said. Rogers suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“And the recovery process was super challenging,” she said. “But luckily, all of my therapists, they knew that I was a musician. So they incorporated music into all of my treatment plans.”

Rogers — a vocalist who also plays guitar, piano and flute — did recover, after undergoing therapy integrated with music. Now, Rogers is working toward a career in music therapy. And she’s getting some help in that pursuit. From Beyoncé.

Rogers, 36, is a recipient of the Formation Scholars award, a scholarship for women the megastar artist announced in April. Four winners were named last week, including Rogers, who is entering her second year at Howard and aiming to earn a postgraduate certificate.

“Having gone through something like a brain injury, and thankfully, being able to recover from that and help other people with music just seemed like the next logical thing,” said Rogers, who was born in Chicago, moved to Michigan as a child and has lived in Washington for a couple of years. “When I talk about it my eyes light up. It’s something I’m very passionate about.”

The scholarships were an effort to “encourage and support young women who are unafraid to think outside the box and are bold, creative, conscious and confident,” according to post on Beyoncé’s website. The site stated that the four scholarships, awarded for the upcoming academic year, were to “add to the celebration” of the first anniversary of “Lemonade,” which was released in 2016. “Formation” is a track on “Lemonade,” Beyoncé’s sixth album.

Rogers will receive a $25,000 scholarship, Howard said in a news release. The funds mean Rogers will be able to continue her studies, a future that wasn’t always so certain.

“I wasn’t really actually sure if I would be able to actually to come back to school,” she said. “And I had to just kind of put that down, like, leave it alone for a while. I had done everything that I knew how to do, apply for as many scholarships and financial aid as I could. I just wasn’t really seeing how it would be possible. Sometimes it’s not all up to us. You can do your best and be diligent and proactive and then you have to just let it go.”

The scholarships were awarded to women “pursuing studies in creative arts, music, literature or African-American studies,” according to Beyoncé’s website. Four schools were involved in the effort: Howard, in Northwest Washington; the Berklee College of Music in Boston; Parsons School of Design in New York; and Spelman College in Atlanta. Spelman and Howard are historically black schools.

Applicants for the scholarships sent in an essay about “Lemonade,” and how the album “inspired their educational goals,” according to Beyoncé’s site. Rogers said her essay focused on the themes of forgiveness and love, things that are important to her, “in just how to live your life.”

“I also talked about how when really tough situations happen, how to kind of take something that seems very sour, like lemons, and create something that’s more pleasant, and how you become more resilient as a byproduct of going through a situation,” she said.

One student at each of the four participating institutions was awarded a scholarship. In addition to Rogers, the other winners include:

Bria Paige, an English major at Spelman. Paige, a rising junior from Jackson, Miss., “exemplifies the female scholar this award intends to bolster as she has excelled not only in the classroom but also as a leader among her peers,” Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a release.

Sadiya Ramos, a sophomore at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Ramos is studying dance. The native of Suffern, N.Y., started dancing when she was 6 years old, according to Berklee. “Sadiya’s energy and talent know no limits, and I know she will continue to excel as a dancer and artist as a student, and in the future,” Cathy Young, executive director of Boston Conservatory at Berklee, said on the school’s website.

• Avery Youngblood, a student in the Parsons graphic design program and a recent graduate of Stanford University, according to Beyoncé’s website.

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