Surrounded by the lush, green background of the Anniston Country Club’s golf course, Jennifer Maddox, president and CEO of the foundation, opened the reception with a charge to each scholarship recipient.
“Make sure you endeavor to do something with these scholarships and make a change in the world in some way that will make it worthwhile to the people that have invested in you,” she said.
The foundation awarded 16 local students with scholarships, totaling $25, 750 at this year’s reception. Unlike most scholarships donated by corporations or private sponsors, the foundation allowed the scholarship recipient to meet their donor and to learn each donor’s purpose in establishing the fund, some of which were in honor of lost loved ones.
Anniston resident Jillian Bridges was awarded the Mary Katherine “Katy” Williamson Memorial Scholarship established by John and Susan Williamson, along with their son, Ben, to honor Katy’s memory.
“John, Ben and I created Katy’s scholarship so that her legacy of caring and sharing everything she loved with those who knew her and those who would never know her,” Williamson said. “It was only natural to continue this legacy after her death.”
In addition to balancing grades and dealing with the pressures of college, students like Bridges have to meet the expectations of their donors and the named-individuals for whom their scholarships were established.
Upon John Williamson placing the medal around Bridges’ neck and handing her a scholarship certificate, Bridges expressed how honored she was and what it meant to her to receive an award established in Mary Katherine’s name.
“This is just a blessing because they believe in me, and I’ll be able to help others as they’ve helped me,” said Bridges.
Susan Williamson said Mary Katherine planned to continue her education in the nursing program at Jacksonville State University before she died at 20, and the scholarship reflects her daughter’s life ambitions.
Now, Bridges gets to follow in Mary Katherine’s steps and continue her legacy at the University of Alabama where she will major in nursing. Williamson noted that what the scholarship committee saw in Bridges was the same desire and passion that Mary Katherine had to succeed and “to become someone that would help others for years to come.”
“The ability to award Katy’s scholarship to a student like Jillian is made possible by the generous donors who love our family and share our desire,” Williamson said. “We receive strength from each and every encounter. Jillian now has the opportunity to live a dream only started by Katy.”
Another memorial scholarship given was the Nathan Jackson Sparks Memorial Scholarship, which was awarded to Saks High School student Cameron Greenwood.
Nathan Sparks, a 1997 graduate of Saks High School, died in a motorcycle accident in June 2001, and his sister, Kristin, spoke about her brother’s character and the importance of setting up the fund to celebrate Nathan’s life.
Sparks said Greenwood deserved the award because he exhibited some of the same characteristics of her brother, Nathan. According to Sparks, Greenwood was selected because of “his nature of putting others before himself and taking care of others who are weaker than him.”
Other students echoed how appreciative they were of their donors and their willingness to come back to Anniston to make a difference in other students’ lives in the future just as their donors did in their lives.
Troy University senior Quinita Jackson who is pursuing business said, “When these people give out money, it’s because they believe in you.”
“They want to encourage you and are dedicated to your career,” Jackson continued. “She didn’t give me a scholarship for one year. She’s given me a scholarship for all four years of college.”
Perhaps what separates the foundation from other philanthropic organizations is that they continue to support students throughout their matriculation at two- or four-year institutions. Most of the scholarships are renewable annually, provided students comply with the foundation’s guidelines and complete degree requirements in two or four years.
Eight students received a renewal scholarship, including student Kayla Headrick, who received the Nightingale Award to fund four years at Jacksonville State University. One of those renewable scholarships included the Harry M. and Edel Y. Ayers Scholarship Fund, which was established by Consolidated Publishing Company to benefit generations of current and past employees.
Eula Tatman, vice president of the foundation, said that anyone could become a donor. “We use donor gifts to grow funds to benefit the community forever,” she said.
“We want people to know they, too, can create a fund. For the parents that may not know about our scholarships, we post a list each year on our website of scholarships that are available,” said Tatman.
This year’s scholarship award recipients included: Jillian Bridges; Qua China Carmichael; Rodney Fomby; Cameron Greenwood; Jasmine Leonard; Amber Leigh Ray; Antonio Sledge; Ikharia Wofford; Brittnay Bradford; Mattie Crisp; Courtney Carlisle; Brady Magouirk; Haley Welch; Kayla Headrick; Quinita Jackson; and Justin Tyler Robinson.
The recipients of these scholarships will be attending several Alabama colleges, including Shelton State, Jacksonville State, University of Alabama, Troy University, Huntingdon College, Auburn and Alabama State University.
Maddox closed the evening reminding each student that the donors truly care about them and their success as students. “Don’t fear establishing a relationship with your donor. Use them as a resource to do things and succeed,” she said.
Want to know more?
For more information on how to become a donor, set up a scholarship fund or to receive more information on scholarships available, please visit yourcommunityfirst.org.