Monique McGhee remembers her senior year at Dillard University, a private, historically black liberal arts college located in New Orleans, Louisiana.

While fellow college seniors looked forward to graduation, explored career opportunities, and prepared to celebrate and embark on a whole new chapter of their lives, Monique struggled to make ends meet. She owed the university $7,000, money neither she nor her family had.

But thanks to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), she was able to secure Campaign for Emergency Student Aid that helps college seniors close to graduation and in financial need pay off their tuition or fee balances so they can graduate.  

“I was able to clear my balance so I could walk on stage and graduate,” said McGhee. “Without the emergency scholarship assistance, I couldn’t get my transcripts, couldn’t get a diploma, couldn’t walk on stage or embrace the whole senior experience.

“There’s lot of pressure senior year. The financial aid really took off a major load. It closed that gap for me and allowed me to focus on what I needed to do to finish and graduate.”

She graduated from Dillard University in 2012 with a degree in sociology. The 25-year-old returned to Los Angeles and recently completed her first year at the University of Southern California where she’s enrolled in the Master of Social Work program.

McGhee is one of thousands of minority students from low- and moderate-income families that the UNCF has helped financially at 37 public and private historically black colleges and universities across the U.S.

As the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization, UNCF has raised more than $3.6 billion to help more than 400,000 students receive college degrees at UNCF-member institutions and with UNCF scholarships. It enables more than 60,000 students each year to attend college and graduate.

“Our charge is to raise money through events and scholarships to support 37 universities and colleges for the students that attend them,” said Carolyn Trader, development director for UNCF Los Angeles. “We have a large charge at our feet. We give tens of thousands of dollars to students attending these schools; some are private schools. They’re costly and tuition isn’t cheap.”

Edison International is a long-time supporter of UNCF and shares its commitment to education, especially studies in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and minority engagement in underserved communities in its service territory. Since 2004, Edison International has raised nearly $500,000 for UNCF. With Edison International and Southern California Edison (SCE) employee contributions, the total is even greater.

On Aug. 2, Edison International and SCE employees, family members, friends and other guests will gather at Exposition Park (South Menlo and Coliseum) near downtown Los Angeles for the 2014 UNCF 32nd Annual Walk for Education.

The 5K walk helps raise money so the UNCF can continue to provide financial support to help young men and women in need go to college and graduate. This year, Edison International is one of the event’s key sponsors and has contributed $25,000.

Marliss Gordon, president of SCE’s Networkers Employee Resource Group, which spearheads employee engagement for the walk, hopes to raise an additional $25,000 in employee contributions this year. A strong turnout will result in a sea of SCE green T-shirts on display.

“We would like to see at least 300 employees, their family members and friends in green T-shirts that day,” said Gordon. “We really want to see as many employees as possible. That would be great.”

To register for the walk, or to make a contribution, click here.