DeKalb Education Scholarship Fund benefits 26 graduates

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 5/24/2013, 3:14 p.m.
Twenty-six DeKalb students are headed this fall to colleges and universities with a total of $130,000 from the newly created ...
Recipients of the first DeKalb County Education Scholarships stand to be recognized during the May 14 awards reception in the Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Great Hall. Each student received a $5,000 scholarships donated by a range of businesses and organisations. Photo by Curtis Parker

— Twenty-six DeKalb students are headed this fall to colleges and universities with a total of $130,000 from the newly created DeKalb County Education Scholarship Fund to help pay for their education.

Each student got a check for $5,000, good for tuition, books and other school expenses.

At a May 14 awards ceremony in Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Great Hall overlooked by life-size replicas of dinosaurs, museum CEO Susan Nugent told scholarship recipients who are graduating this week that everyone is proud of their determination to build a better world.

“The community stands behind you and is expecting great things of you,” she said.

The scholarships were the inaugural awards from the fund created by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis with $5,000 he won from the National Association of Counties.

Ellis said he could have given five students $1,000 each or 10 students $500 each.

Instead, he called on the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, businesses and organizations asking them to match his $5,000 and help more graduates.

“We decided to take it and multiply it and ask our partners for help,” he said. “Everybody we called said the same thing – yes. We don’t do this alone. This is the power of partnership.”

Those stepping up to the plate to support the education fund included Siemens Corp., NACo, Agnes Scott College, APD Solutions, Chick-fil-A Foundation, Coca-Cola Refreshments, Crawford Investment Counsel, Earnest Partners LLC, the Edgar Lomax Co., Emory University, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Fuqua Development, GAMCO Asset Management, Gas South, Georgia-Pacific Foundation, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Georgia Power, Hewlett-Packard, Kaiser Permanente, the Kroger Co., Montag and Caldwell, The Champion Newspaper, Newell Rubbermaid Inc., Oglethorpe Power, Piper Jaffray, PNC, Publix Charities, Selig Enterprises, Silverman Construction Program Management, SunTrust Banks Inc., UPS, Walmart, and Wells Fargo.

Scholarships will be awarded annually.

Ellis, chamber board Chair Arnie Silverman, and DeKalb Schools interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond presented the awards to the high school seniors who are headed to two- and four-year colleges, universities and vocational training programs in the fall.

Among the recipients are Southwest DeKalb resident valedictorian Coreyonna Welch, who battled ovarian cancer during her first and second semester; Lakeside High graduate Erin Shyr, who founded a nonprofit to help kids; and Tucker High’s Ramon Johnson, who has completed 300 hours of community service.

The recipients come from 19 DeKalb high schools and will attend colleges from Georgia Piedmont in Clarkston to Boston University and FAMU. Their studies will include business, political science, nursing, engineering, music, criminal justice, premed, psychology, biology, chemistry and computers.

More than 135 seniors applied for the opportunity. Awards were based on financial need and merit.

Thurmond said he is extremely proud of the students who sacrificed much and worked so hard to become successful during their educational careers.

“They are the best and the brightest and they represent the next generation of leaders who’ve transformed this county, this state, and this nation, and even the world,” he said.

Silverman said that neither government nor businesses can do it all.

“So by working together, I believe that we leverage those efforts and give some kids an opportunity that they never would have had,” he said.

Silverman, who is CEO of Decatur-based Silverman Construction, sponsored the $5,000 scholarship awarded to Miller Grove graduate Willie James Moody, who will be studying engineering at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. He said the scholarships help students get funding and help companies create potential employees.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Silverman said.

Ellis said he was led to create the scholarship fund because every year the county gets calls from distressed parents seeking money to send their kids to college.

“This year we answered the call 26 times,” he said.