Even at the last minute, counselor Cherie Ferguson was busy as she directed parents to their seats, students to the stage and donors into the wings of the Performing Arts Center in preparation for Dawson County High School’s 2019 Senior Scholarship Night.
“This is the first year we have done it as its own night,” Ferguson said. “It was Scholarship and Honors night, but that got to be almost three hours long and we decided to separate them this year.”
This year’s event featured 27 members of the Dawson County community as business leaders, civic groups and local charities gathered to recognize and reward the dozens of students who had applied for this year’s batch of scholarships.
In his opening comments, DCHS Principal Brody Hughes took great pains to dispel the notion of “free money night” as he complimented the community at large for their generosity and also invited a round of applause to recognize the hard work of the students seated on the stage behind him.
“There are a lot of people in this room that made this possible, from business leaders and community groups to parents and family members and the students here behind me, through their dedication and hard work both inside and outside of the classroom. They are the reason we are here,” Hughes said.
Overall, the themes of the evening centered around community service and perseverance as scholarship foundations associated with local families, businesses, and community groups took to the stage to award checks ranging from $500 to $15,000.
The application process for each group was relatively the same and involved a written application, usually an interview, and an essay. In most cases the essay made up the bulk of the judging criteria as they were focused on the issues that best represented the group presenting the scholarship.
Senior Michael Pippin, who took home four scholarships worth more than $17,000, discussed the need for students to be proactive during the process and to not be afraid to focus on the parts of yourself that will make you stand out from the crowd.
“You have to meet them halfway and take the time to fill out the applications,” Pippin said. “We even had a whole day to fill out scholarships all day. The most rigorous part is making yourself stand out, letting them know how you are worth it.”
Pippin currently plans to attend the University of North Georgia to begin his studies in Computer Science while he begins preparing his applications to both West Point and Georgia Tech with the goal of starting at either institution in his sophomore year.
“To be quite honest, I didn’t have a lot of money,” Pippin said. “I, and a lot of other students, wouldn’t be able to go to college without a night like tonight.”
Community leader Seannie Zappendorf, who presented awards on behalf of the Dawson County Republican Party, the Chiang Family Foundation and the Atlanta Motorsports Park, not only understood the significance of the night in the lives of high school students but encouraged extending awareness of all of the scholarships available in Dawson County as deeply into the education system as possible.
“Students need to be invited to attend this night at all levels, from junior high school and up,” Zappendorf said. “They need to know about this event. They need to know what is out there so they can work hard.”