Scholarships available for local seniors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

For graduating high school seniors who think college is out of the question because of their grades, there’s hope yet.

Representatives from the J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship Foundation are looking for Alabama students who give back to their communities while giving it their all

– inside and outside the classroom.

Last year, 20 high school seniors across the state were awarded four-year scholarships to any accredited college or university of their choice in Alabama. Tuition, room and board, textbooks – all paid for.

Alabama Commission on Higher Education Communications Director Margaret Gunter said the students were deserving of the scholarship because they all have a strong education in the school of hard knocks. These scholars are primary breadwinners for their family, finding ways to manage their dueling teenage and adult lives.

“At the ages of 17 and 18, they have exhibited a great degree of maturity and have experienced a lot of life’s lessons prior to what their chronological ages should require,” Gunter said.

Gunter said most scholarships are pigeonholed into the academic or athletic categories. She indicated the Smith scholarship is truly unique.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students who are not necessarily the valedictorian or the salutatorian or the National Honor Society student,” Gunter said.

Requirements of the scholarship include a minimum C average, two essays (one documenting assistance to family members or community and civic-oriented activities, the other focusing on future plans or goals) and three signed letters of recommendation.

Special consideration is given to applicants who would be the first in their family to attend college.

The brainchild of Mignon Smith, the scholarship is named for her parents. Mignon’s father, J. Craig Smith, was the former president and CEO of Avondale Mills in east Alabama. A civic-minded and philanthropic individual, J. Craig wanted to improve the lives of blue-collar workers who were barely able to put bread on the table, but wanted more for their children, Gunter said.

The scholarship also provides a tutoring and mentoring program to help the scholars adjust to college life.

“A lot of these students have never really left their local communities,” Gunter said. “To take someone from very rural Alabama and put them on the campus of the University of Alabama, Auburn University or whatever school they choose – it’s overwhelming,”

The mentors help the students adjust to college classes, their newfound freedom and being away from home,” Gunter said.

Gunter said one student did not meet the ACT requirements for admission to her school. However, she was taken in on conditional admission because of her strong work ethic and was provided a tutor to improve her grades.

“Her counselor had written a glowing recommendation and said she was the hardest working student,” Gunter said. “But because of her adverse living conditions, it really prohibited her from being able to put in the time she needed for her studies.”

Gunter stressed there is still time for students to apply. The deadline is Jan. 15, 2006. She urges students to be proactive in obtaining scholarships.

“We’re all for helping individuals better themselves,” Gunter said.

For more information about applying to the J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship Foundation, call (205) 250-6669 or access its Web site www.jcraigsmithfoundation.org.