ST PAULS, N.C. (WBTW)– On a night where graduating seniors at St. Pauls High School were recognized for their achievements and given college scholarships, three of those honored Monday night were meant to preserve the legacy of an alum with a bright future whose life was taken away.

“Tonight’s Senior Night, and it will be our first time honoring my son,” Tanisha Coleman said.

Coleman’s son, Marqueise, was a running back at St. Pauls High School and won the Robeson County Heisman in 2019. He was set to play college football at Fayetteville State University but was shot and killed last summer before he could make it onto the field. His murder remains unsolved.

After his death, Tanisha Coleman said one of her son’s friends raised money to pay for funeral expenses. She said she intends to use that money to keep his legacy alive instead.

“I decided to just do a scholarship in his name,” she said. “It makes me feel good to do this because I know how he was about the kids out here.“

Three of Marqueise’s scholarships were presented at senior night. Coleman named them “Big 32 Scholarships” after her son’s number on the field.

“He was going to elevate his community,” Stephanie Blackadar said. “It only seems right that because he doesn’t have the chance to do that, if we are able, we should continue that.”

Blackadar is a relative of Coleman’s and the executive director of the recently-formed Marqueise Coleman Foundation. She said Monday was only the beginning of the work to honor him.

She said that she, Coleman’s mother and grandmother all plan to present a scholarship to a student-athlete at each of Robeson County’s high schools. She said the foundation will also start a program called “Legacy 32,” which will help pay for sports equipment and training camps for students who otherwise could not afford them.

“If they have a financial barrier that is preventing them from succeeding, whether they need new shoes or to go to a training camp, they can apply and we can try to cover that cost for them,” she said.

As she addressed the soon-to-be graduates, Coleman recalled a time when her son broke his hand and his season appeared to be at an end.

“They put a cast on his hand, and sure enough, he played football,” she said.

She urged the students not to let anything stand between them and their dreams, just like her son, Marqueise “Big 32” Coleman did.