Kevin Richardson of Exonerated Five Honored With Syracuse University Scholarship
Kevin Richardson said he's estatic to know the scholarship will help generations to come.
You could say Kevin Rchardson’s time has come.
Syracuse University has now named a scholarship in Richardson’s honor. He was home taking care of his toddler when he got the call.
“I was just ecstatic about it just to be connected that way and know that I was helping out generations to come. It's a big thing, so that was my highlight. Just to know that my name will be carrying on a legacy for others,” Richardson told InsideEdition.com.
The scholarship will be included as part of a larger program at the university.
“At Syracuse, we have a scholarship program called Our Time Has Come. It benefits underserved students with an unmet financial need and the program has been around since the 1980s. We have 100% graduation rate with these students,” Rachel Vassel, head of multicultural advancement at Syracuse, told InsideEdition.com.
In 1989, Richardson was just a 14-year-old who fell in love with playing the trumpet and basketball.
His dream was to attend the prestigious upstate New York university, known for its basketball teams and media program.
But one spring night in 1989, hanging out in New York City's Central Park, would completely knock him off course.
Richardson, along with four others, Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santiago, would come to be known as the Central Park Five. They were wrongfully convicted of rape and attempted murder of jogger Tricia Meili.
Each of the innocent men spent between six to 13 years in prison, until a lone inmate saw that Wise — who spent the longest amount of time behind bars — was still wrongfully imprisoned for his crime, and fessed up. DNA tests confirmed the admission.
In 2002, the five were exonerated and their sentences were vacated.
“The question always asked is why I'm not bitter. And I always say I have to take that energy and channel that into something positive. So now that people see my story and the rest of the brothers, they wanna do something to help. People that was around at that time, they might feel bad or wish they could've done something to help,” Richardson said.
The men sued the city and in total settled for about $41 million.
Now known as the Exonerated Five, their story is the subject of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series “When They See Us.”
"I think our story just ... shook up the world a little bit. We woke people up so now people are listening and that's all we really wanted was for people to hear our story.”
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Richardson mentioned he’d wanted to attend Syracuse. Word got back to the university, which is how the scholarship came about.
“What’s nice about it is once it’s endowed, it’ll exist in perpetuity. So, you know, as long as the university is here, we will use the money to support students who are going to be very similar to the kind of student that Kevin would’ve been if he had the opportunity to be at Syracuse. So he wasn’t able to be here, but he’s allowing others to be here on this great campus,” Vassel said.
It’s not a full scholarship just yet.
“Right now we have $25,000. We’re continuing to fundraise so that we have to endow it, and then we will continue to grow it over the years, so initially probably only be able to support four students, but we hope that it grows and we continue to get donations so we can help a lot more. The scholarship program overall, we had 60 students in the cohort last year. So these students will be part of that cohort,” Vassel added.
An alum from the class of '95 was the first to donate.
While Richardson was wrongfully imprisoned, the woman who would get this ball rolling was just graduating.
"I always tell people don't give up, like I know you might be in a dark space where you think that's it for you. But you have to stay ... you have to believe. You have to keep believing that one day, it will turn around for you,” Richardson said.
While at Syracuse, the athletics department adopted him. "I balled a little bit just to show I still have it,” Richardson joked.
He was also gifted a new Yamaha trumpet. Richardson has plans to return to the school and play.
"That's my homework. I'm gonna go start studying, and start playing the trumpet, again because I wouldn't say I lost that passion, but I'd say I put it on the back burner. So now I wanna pick it back up and be re-aquainted."
It might lead to a new chapter for Richardson, who would love to perform alongside jazz great Wynton Marsalis.
"Wynton, call me,” Richardson said with a laugh.
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