OPINION: Generosity in education spans the decades

It’s hard to believe that, once again, school has started for K-12, and shortly, many other students will be college bound!
I began to think about the importance of an education. I thought about how teachers influence students and I reflected on the significance of scholarship monies awarded to students based on their accomplishments at the completion of high school.
Early in my career at CREATE Foundation, one of my responsibilities was working with donors who established scholarships funds. This also involved interaction with the students who received the award and their families. During this time, I realized the tremendous impact of how scholarships really make a difference in the lives of individuals. I can share testimony after testimony from recipients of how scholarships are vitally important. I recall one in particular.
A young lady was awarded a four-year scholarship to a university. Her father called me each semester to request disbursement of the monies to the college. He always updated me on his daughter’s progress in school. The final year, he called and asked if he could come by the office to meet me. Of course, I said, “Yes.” During the visit, he said, “Juanita, this year has been one of the worse financial years of my life. We moved to another city; I lost my job; and my wife became seriously ill. I want you to know that if it hadn’t been for this scholarship, I don’t know what we would have done. I had no money to give my daughter. Thank you, and please thank the Board for providing this type service.”
This man gave me a hug, laid his head on my shoulder, cried and said, “This scholarship has made a difference in our lives.”
A donor came to the Foundation to establish a pass-through scholarship fund. As we talked, he said, “The Good Lord has blessed me to send my sons to college – now I want to give back. I’d like the scholarship to help students who go to college or a trade school. I also want to encourage the recipients of the scholarships to someday help someone else.”
The donor’s words reminded me of what activist Paul Robeson said, “Having been given, I must give.”
A few years later this same donor came to my office. My first-born son, (8 years old at the time) was in my office. He met my little boy and they began to talk. Then, looking at my son, he said, “Son, if you stay in school and graduate from high school, I’ll give you a scholarship.” Ten years later my son graduated from high school. Due to conflicts, the donor could not present the scholarship to my son on awards day. Not to be deterred, amazingly, he and his wife came to my hand-clapping, foot stomping church to present the award.
This summer, my son received his certificate in Welding and Cutting Technology from Itawamba Community College, and now plans to attend an underwater welding school in Florida. I showed the certificate to the donor – hugged him, cried and said, “Thank you. Your scholarship made a difference in our lives.”
Just like the man previously mentioned, my circumstances had changed. I was now single and rearing three children. I truly understood the emotional gratitude of the gentleman nearly 20 years ago.
I then thought about an older lady, Carrie Mae Armstrong (now deceased) and her husband, Henry from my hometown community of Red Hill who loved to fish in Sardis. While attending college at Ole Miss, I inevitably would always see them at a gas station in Oxford. She would either give me money or fill my car with gas and say, “I didn’t have an opportunity to go to college – I want to do what I can to help you make it.”
I share these testimonies to convey the importance of giving – whether it’s a small or large gift. When you have the means to help others obtain an education or trade which ultimately leads them to become productive citizens of our great country – it definitely makes a difference. Dr. King said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” Friends, if we use our monies as well as our time and talents to invest in people – will it make a difference? You be the judge.

Contact community columnist Juanita Gambrell Floyd at her e-mail address, juanita@createfoundation.com, or write to her in care of P.O. Box 1053, Tupelo, MS 38802.

Juanita Gambrell Floyd