Big Canoe Chapel recently awarded 69 scholarships to graduating seniors from Dawson and Pickens counties, totaling $78,000.
Judy Bellenger, who serves on the communications committee for Big Canoe Chapel, said that the scholarship amounts vary and this year, two newer scholarships provided by families within the church were awarded as well.
“This is the second year we have the Joe Dodd Scholarship, which is an endowment by the family of a long-time member of the chapel who passed away a few years ago and that’s specifically for students who are pursuing athletics,” Bellenger said.
The Joe Dodd Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Mykenzie Weaver from Pickens High School and Brody Howell from Dawson County High School.
The other new scholarship, the Sally Shannon Memorial Scholarship was established by another family within the chapel this year and awards $1,000 each to two students who showed an overall strong work ethic throughout their high school career. This scholarship was awarded to Madjiguene Nadiye and Evion Reinhardt, both from Dawson County High School.
Big Canoe Chapel has been awarding scholarships to Dawson and Pickens County students since 1982 and has given away over $2.5 million. However, due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, this year was different than any in the past.
“We normally have a Sunday afternoon with an award ceremony and all the students and their families are invited to the chapel and recognized with a reception afterward,” Bellenger said. “Then they’re given a bible from the chapel and we take group pictures from each county, but this year we couldn’t do any of that so we just had to record the ceremony on video.”
In order to receive the scholarships, graduating seniors filled out an application and were interviewed by a team from the chapel’s scholarship committee. Students must also meet a set of criteria, including being a resident of Dawson or Pickens County and maintaining a 3.25 GPA in order to meet the state’s HOPE qualifications.
“Our scholarships are typically for students that have a greater need for them, and our goal is to help jump-start them or give them a little more initiative to go to college and get started,” Bellenger said. “Our students have gone to a lot of different schools, from Harvard to Georgia Tech to UGA to John Hopkins.”
The scholarships help to make a huge difference for the students, Bellenger said, and over the past 37 years, the chapel has heard dozens of stories about this.
“The guy who’s our pianist at church now just got his doctorate and he was a scholarship recipient a number of years ago,” Bellenger said. “He talks about how wonderful it was to have that little bit of extra help to get him through college.”
According to Bellenger, the hope for the chapel’s scholarship program is that it continues to grow so that more students can be awarded scholarships in the future.
“Our people are very generous and do all we can to help the students and nonprofits in both of these counties that have need,” Bellenger said. “We’re hoping it can grow so we can give more and I just think it’s nice for the community to know that these scholarships are here and to know who’s been awarded for all their hard work.”
Dawson County graduates who were awarded 2020 scholarships include the following students: