Randy Russell, left, has been Ramsey Bronyah’s “big brother” since his childhood. Now, Russell has named a scholarship in Bronyah’s honor.

Growing up in public housing in Alexandria, Virginia, with his siblings and mother, an immigrant from Ghana, Ramsey Bronyah may have at first appeared to be a long way away from a career as a high-powered federal lawyer.

But he worked hard in school and stayed focused. He also had a friend to encourage him: Randy Russell, his “big brother” from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program.

Russell is owner of The Russell Group, an agricultural policy lobbying group in Washington, D.C. As the years went by, he kept his connection to Bronyah, who graduated from the University of Richmond’s law school after first obtaining his master’s degree from Indiana University and bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, which he attended on a track scholarship.

Today, Bronyah is the assistant bureau chief of the Maricopa County, Arizona, attorney’s office, the third largest prosecutorial agency in the country.

He is also the namesake of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences’ newest scholarship, the Ramsey Bronyah Annual Scholarship Award. Established at the college by The Russell Group, two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded annually to two rising junior or senior undergraduate students who plan to major in agriculture and have an interest in public policy. The first awards will be made this fall.

“We wanted to get involved in developing the next generation of agriculture policy makers,” said Russell, who was deeply involved in the Big Brothers program for years, as president of the Northern Virginia Council and a board member for the Washington capital area.

Bronyah, now 40, was matched with Russell when he was 11. “That started a relationship that’s as strong now as ever,” Russell said. “I named it for him because I can’t think of anyone who has gone farther or that I’m more proud of.”

Bronyah didn’t know about the scholarship, or its name, until the agreement was signed. He was “floored,” Russell said.

“This is just a tremendous honor and an awesome endeavor that will have a huge impact on the recipients,” Bronyah told Russell.

Russell’s interest in agricultural policy is not just limited to lobbying; he is also interested in diversifying the profession.

“We had a job search last year, and I noticed that we didn’t have one diverse applicant. So I looked at the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and there were a few (people of color), but not many.

“The way you change things is one person at a time,” said Russell, who is white. “So, we reached out to A&T to develop both a scholarship and an internship program to try to generate interest in public policy and get the next generation up here to Washington.”

The group’s first agriculture intern starts this summer; another will start in the fall and a third in the spring.

“We didn’t want to just write a check. We wanted to get involved personally in somebody’s life and try to help them,” Russell said. “I can’t think of a better college to start with than N.C. A&T. Working with the university has been a wonderful experience.”

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