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As a young girl growing up in Athens-Clarke County, I was always aware of the need to raise money for a neighbor’s son or daughter who had overcome all obstacles to pursue higher education and been accepted to college. The majority of adults in the community were skilled laborers, including electricians, plumbers, and beauticians, but no adult in the community had a college education. Not only was the child’s household very proud, the entire community was proud to have one of its own going to college; oftentimes, this child was a member of the first generation of the family to reach this milestone.

So that the community as a whole could help send this student off with some of his or her needs taken care of, a responsible adult in the community would take the lead and start asking other adults to give monetary donations. If enough money was not taken in, hot dogs, fish, and chicken sandwiches were sold on a Saturday to make up for the shortfall. Whatever money was raised was given to the family to help with the extra expenses.

As an adult, I’m often asked to give donations to Athens-Clarke County families whose sons and daughters have overcome today’s odds, graduated from high school, and been accepted to college. In other instances, there were unspoken needs, and my observations of the family moved me to offer financial assistance.

My observations of families with a child going to college have not changed that much over the years; they still need some assistance. In 2011, I asked family and friends for donations to help high school graduates who had been accepted to college. Donors all believed in higher education and thought helping a deserving student would be good for the community. A goal was set to give one $500.00 scholarship. I networked with individuals in the community to locate graduating students who met the scholarship criteria. The very first year, three $500.00 scholarships were given to deserving students. A total of 53 scholarships have been awarded since 2011.

It is now time to formalize this program to help more deserving students in Athens-Clarke County who have been accepted to a technical school or college. The Step Up Scholarship Program is being formally organized to seek donations from the entire Athens-Clarke County area to financially assist deserving students.