Southwest Foundation celebrates generosity and student success at holiday reception
Southwest offers a variety of student-centered financial and academic support. The Southwest Foundation was established more than 18 years ago to help those students who need financial assistance. Today, the Foundation provides numerous scholarships to help students offset the cost of books, supplies, tuition and fees.
The Foundation honored its generous donors at a Dec. 4 reception, thanking them for investing in student success. It was an evening of smiles and gratitude at the Bornblum Library as sponsors and donors listened to tunes from the band Underground while meeting their scholarship recipients. The recipients gave personal testimonies of how their scholarships helped them complete their studies and fulfill their life-long educational dreams.
“Thank you all for being here and for helping our students succeed,” President Tracy D. Hall told the crowd of more than 100 guests. “Our students are fabulous, but sometimes life can present barriers to their success. Your support is far-reaching -- when you help a student, you change their life, their family, and our community.”
Last year the Foundation expended $212,000 on scholarships and served approximately 115 students with regular scholarships and 104 with book scholarships. That’s an average award of $1,000 per student. Student needs have increased -- more than $35,000 in book scholarships were awarded this past fall, an amount typically expended during an entire academic year.
Drew Champion is a freshman working on his Associate of Applied Science degree in psychology. He is thankful for his book scholarship. “Books are so expensive. The scholarship allows me to work less and focus more on school, otherwise I would have to work full-time,” Champion said.
For freshman Kerigan Gunter, the Foundation’s scholarship money was essential for her family to send her to college. “I have a sister who is going to college, so the scholarship helps pay for tuition expenses that my family cannot afford.”
At-risk Disadvantaged Scholarship recipient and third semester nursing student Stadeetra Jones says her scholarship kept her in school. “Without this scholarship, I was not sure if I could continue my education,” she said. “Obtaining a nursing degree is something I’ve dreamed of, especially as a first generation student. I am very thankful to the Foundation for its support and help.”
Many more student remarks of gratitude were heard by the attendees and Foundation supporters. Pamela and Darryl Finnie were among the guests happy to hear about the growth of the Foundation over the years. They are vested fundraisers and established a scholarship six years ago called the SSG Daniel D. Merriweather Scholarship in memory of their son who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Mrs. Finnie was once a scholarship recipient at Southwest and a graduate of the nursing program. After Southwest, Finnie earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Union University and a master’s degree in nursing education from the University of Memphis. She was Southwest Alumnus of the Year in 2016.
“It is a blessing to have attended this school,” Pamela Finnie said during her remarks at the reception. “I am a proud alum of Southwest and now serve on the nursing school advisory board. The Foundation has helped me with my scholarship efforts and it has been a joy giving back to this school, especially in remembrance of my son.”
The Merriweather Scholarship Fund awards book scholarships to full and part-time Southwest nursing students who maintain a 2.5 GPA or better. In support of the Finnie’s as Gold Star Family members creating a legacy for their fallen warrior, the Dog Tag Brewing Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to Southwest last year to support the Finnies’ annual Smash Up Fitness Fundraiser. Since they began donating and fundraising, the Finnies have supported more than 18 students.
Foundation President Ann Langston closed the evening by thanking all the donors, sponsors and guests, musical entertainment and Donelson’s Catering. She reaffirmed Southwest’s commitment to providing student-centered supports by stating that a student’s education and well-being are a holistic endeavor. “We all must make the investment in our students’ success – donors, faculty and staff.”
To learn more about the foundation and to donate, visit http://www.southwest.tn.edu/foundation/.