Clemons ‘Butterflies’ Fund Spreads Its Wings

Inaugural Distribution Helps with the Cost of Tuition for 8 at Hampton, Smith, Spelman and Tuskegee

In 2020 after losing his wife Sharon to the COVID-19 pandemic, Erik Clemons established a permanent fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

In setting up a donor advised fund, Clemons decided that for the immediate future, grants from the Sharon M. Clemons ‘Butterflies’ Fund would be used to help young African American women pursue a college education; in particular, higher education at the colleges that the couple’s four daughters Nia, Kiara, Kai and Nyle attended: Hampton University, Smith College, Spelman College and Tuskegee University.

Sharon was a beloved community member who co-owned a New Haven-based beauty salon with her sister. Thanks to donations from hundreds of friends and family in Sharon’s memory, the balance of the Clemons ‘Butterflies’ Fund grew swiftly in a few short months enabling it to make immediate distributions this year.

"Butterflies" is a term Sharon used to affectionately refer to her daughters. The four have said, almost in unison, “we want our mom’s legacy of and belief in supporting Black women to live on through this fund.”

Clemons Family
Sharon and Erik Clemons with daughters Kiara Osborn, Nyle Clemons, Nia Clemons and Kai Clemons. Courtesy of the Clemons family.


Community Foundation staff turned to Wilbur Cross High School, the New Haven Scholarship Fund and the CT HBCU (Connecticut Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Alumni Network over the summer to identify eligible, local students. Each organization had existing scholarship processes in place, making the selection process more efficient and ensuring that local students would benefit. As a result of the partnerships, 8 young women from Greater New Haven will each receive a portion of $38,000 to help defray the cost of their college tuition.

An eagerness to go to college unites all the recipients, along with a desire to reduce the amount of debt they will incur along the way. Their career interests run the spectrum from psychology, sociology, strategic communications, and biology/pre-med to political science on a pre-law track.

Medria Blue-Ellis, co-founder of the CT HBCU Alumni Network recognized that, “Sharon’s legacy is living on through these scholarship grants that allow other young people to have experiences similar to her daughters and that pave the way for them to make a difference in their communities just as she did in hers.”

“Sharon was a powerful example of servant leadership through her tireless giving to others. This fund is a manifestation of her spirit of giving,” said Clemons.

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Sharon M. Clemons "Butterflies" Fund