Before wrongful Central Park jogger conviction, he dreamed of Syracuse. The school has honored him.

Kevin Richardson told Oprah Winfrey he had dreamed of attending the private New York university and playing in its marching band.
Image: Kevin Richardson
Honoree Kevin Richardson at the ACLU SoCal's 25th Annual Luncheon in Los Angeles on June 7, 2019.Chris Pizzello / AP file

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By Minyvonne Burke

Kevin Richardson dreamed of attending Syracuse University before his life was derailed when he and four other black and Hispanic teens were wrongfully convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger case.

Now, 30 years later, Syracuse has honored Richardson with a scholarship in his name.

Richardson and the other teens were exonerated in the rape case in 2002 and released from prison.

Last week, Richardson, now 44, got the opportunity to walk the campus of the private university in upstate New York, an experience he called "surreal."

“Just being here and being 44 and having that dream at 14, and now I’m here. It’s mind-blowing," he told the school's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange.

The university announced the establishment of the Kevin Richardson Scholarship Fund, which Richardson said in an Instagram post will benefit "students of color to further their education at Syracuse University."

In an emotional speech during a ceremony announcing the scholarship, Richardson expressed gratitude.

"For a scholarship to be named after me, means the world to me. I've been grateful to embrace a lot of good things that happened to me, but for my name to be connected to black and brown kids to carry my legacy, and to be connected to Syracuse University means the world to me," he said in a video he posted on Instagram.

Rachel Vassel, assistant vice president of multicultural advancement at Syracuse, arranged for Richardson to visit following a June interview in which he told Oprah Winfrey that he had always dreamed of attending Syracuse when he was young.

Richardson also told Winfrey that he was a fan of the school's basketball team and had always wanted to play the trumpet in Syracuse's marching band.

During his time on campus, Richardson posted on Instagram that he was given a custom Syracuse University basketball jersey with the number "44" on it, got to meet the men's basketball coach and received a Yamaha trumpet.

He showed off the musical instrument in a post, writing: "Getting reacquainted with a long lost passion of mine after 30 years... Great memories & a big Shout out to Yamaha for providing me with this special chrome edition Trumpet!!!

Richardson and four other teenagers — Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray —were wrongfully convicted of raping a white female jogger in 1989 in New York's Central Park. They were all exonerated in 2002.

The case gained renewed interest with the release of the Netflix limited series "When They See Us," which has been nominated for 16 Emmys.