DC-CAP Scholars Program Gets the Ball Rolling for Tyson Minor, Ayinde Hikim and De’Andre Gore
By Ed Brennen
After graduating from high school a year early at age 16, Washington, D.C., native De’Andre Gore received a coveted University Partnership Scholarship from the District of Columbia College Access Program (DC-CAP) — guaranteeing him a full ride at one of 14 universities.
While friends were telling Gore to pursue a business degree at one of the program’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Marshall or Delaware State, he was partial to UMass Lowell’s DC-CAP Scholars Program.
And for good reason: two of his half-brothers, Tyson Minor and Ayinde Hikim, were already enrolled in the Manning School of Business.
“I look up to both of them, so I knew my support system here would be next-level,” says Gore, a freshman business major with a concentration in finance.
In 2019, UML became the first school to partner with DC-CAP on the scholarship. The partnership stems from a friendship between former state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos of Lowell, a major booster of the university, and DC-CAP Board Chairman Ted Leonsis, a Lowell native who owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the NBA’s Washington Wizards. The Leonsis Foundation provides financial support for the scholarship.
Minor, a first-generation college student with a concentration in finance, blazed his extended family’s trail to UML when he was chosen from more than 100 applicants to become one of the university’s first 20 DC-CAP Scholars in 2019.
“I came up here for a visit, and a few days later, when I found out I got the scholarship, I went crazy,” says Minor, who is on track to graduate with the first DC-CAP cohort in the spring.
Minor was excited to start college in an unfamiliar place.
“When I got here, I found a lot of people with open arms who made my freshman year easier,” he says.
As a DC-CAP Scholar, he was also enrolled in the River Hawk Scholars Academy, a supportive community for first-year, first-generation students. He soon landed a work-study job with Student Affairs and learned Excel while working for Director of Financial Administration June McDermott. He also found a mentor in former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Larry Siegel, who retired in 2021.
“I love Larry. He’s a really good dude. I didn’t know which way I wanted to go with my business degree, but Larry sat me down and helped me figure out what I want to do,” says Minor, who discovered an interest in human resources — a field he plans to pursue after graduation.
Hikim, meanwhile, started college at La Salle University in Philadelphia, where he earned a scholarship to play point guard for the Division I men’s basketball team. He decided to transfer midway through his sophomore year. Knowing that Minor was at UML — where he also knew a member of the men’s basketball coaching staff — Hikim chose to become a River Hawk.
“I heard good things from my brother, and I knew I’d be comfortable here,” says Hikim, who averaged 11 points and 2.7 assists per game in his first season at UML and is off to a strong start this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has one more year of eligibility remaining in 2023-24.
Hikim’s concentration is in entrepreneurship, which makes sense considering he started a clothing business with a few friends three years ago called “Kxlturo.” Described as “an urban brand promoting unity across cultures,” they sell hoodies, T-shirts and shorts through Kxlturo’s Instagram page. Hikim says he was inspired by his mom, Amira, who owns her own vintage clothing business.
“Seeing how she does it and is able to set her own schedule made me want to be my own boss,” says Hikim, who can envision himself working with Minor and Gore someday. “I definitely want to have a business together as a family — to create a legacy.”
Gore is certainly on board, even if he still has more than three years of college ahead of him.
“Let’s get it on the road. Let’s get it going,” he says while meeting up with his brothers in the lobby of the Pulichino Tong Business Center on a recent weekday afternoon. Gore, who describes himself as “nonchalant” about a lot of things, admits that coming into college, “I was just thinking of getting this paper and moving on to my future. I wasn’t even thinking about what I have planned — what we have planned.”
Fortunately, he has plenty of guidance from his brothers, at least for another year or two. While the brothers don’t live together on campus, they like to hang out whenever their schedules allow. Gore and Minor also cheer on Hikim at his basketball games.
As the older brother, Minor doesn’t hesitate to pass along advice to Gore whenever he can.
“When you go to college, and I say this to him a lot, you get to understand what being on your own really means,” says Minor, who works for Student Activities and Leadership this year. “No one is going to baby or take care of you. If you like to be on your phone ordering Uber Eats or DoorDash, understand that it’s a big financial toll. If you drive like me, it’s not cheap at all. Understand what you’re getting into.”
Gore and Minor say their mom, Chiffon Kelly, was understandably excited when she found out they’d both received DC-CAP scholarships. She was interviewed by a local TV station, DC News Now, before they set off to UML together this fall.
“I mean, two children with full tuition, going to the same college — and one of them graduated in 11th grade — I’m just proud and still in shock,” Kelly said. “And I just thank God for the opportunities.”