Les Treize, a scholarship organization, came into existence in 1947 to stimulate, recognize, and reward academic achievement of black youth and to serve as Mentors and role models to college-bound youth.

As more African Americans were attracted to the war industries in Bridgeport during the 1940s, the population of the race grew significantly. Some of Bridgeport’s college graduates returned here to knock on the doors of industry, business, and education in an attempt to obtain professional employment.

A number of them, meeting with success after overcoming great odds, felt that they should reach out to African-American youth to share their know-how in “making it” and help them prepare for the opportunities opening up. Most youth, like themselves, would become the first generation of their families to go to college or any kind of post-secondary education and, in some cases, even to high school.

Out of this situation, 13 business and professional women formed a civic organization named Les Treize, Inc. (Les Treize means thirteen in French). Its ongoing mission has been to establish a scholarship fund to assist African American students who want a college or post-secondary education and to promote civic, cultural, and social opportunities in the Bridgeport area.

How proud this group was of its first $100 scholarship given to a Harding High School graduate, Elaine Gardner, at a garden party at the home of member Elizabeth in Fairfield. Since 1947, Les Treize has awarded thousands of dollars to African American students in Greater Bridgeport Area.

The rewards for Les Treize have been manifold, as it witnessed the success of its recipients, many of whom have retuned to the Bridgeport area to be keynote speakers at the annual scholarship award program.

Some of Les Treize’s outstanding recipients were the late Superior Court Judge, Eugene Spear, Bridgeport Assistant Superintendent of School, Henry Kelly, former Dunbar School Principal, James Hodge, Vice-President of Bridgeport Board of Education, Nancy Geter, Donald Smart, a graduate of Harvard Law and Business School; and Valerie C. Gilford, National Director, Leadership Development and Research for the Girl Scouts of the USA.