A chance to get a college education improved Saturday for 10 fifth-graders when they signed scholarships to become Columbus Scholars in a ceremony at Richards Middle School.
In a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley, Columbus Scholars Inc. raises $7,500 for each selected scholar and transfers those funds to the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley for their future education. Big Brothers Big Sisters then matches the students with a local mentor supporting their dream of a college education.
Since Columbus Scholars started in 2009 at the home of former Ledger-Enquirer executive editor Ben Holden, the program has selected 43 low-income students and raised about $400,000 for scholarships.
More than 100 parents and program supporters attended the signing event marking the Fifth Annual Columbus Scholars Induction Ceremony.
Ayvah Juliana Horner, an 11-year-old student at Britt David Elementary Magnet Academy, said the program means a lot to her.
"It's going to be a lot easier in college since I have a scholarship," said Ayvah, who hopes to become a vet.
All students in the program must maintain a B average, attend monthly events, not become involved in any crimes of moral turpitude and follow other guidelines.
Ashley Selondra Cooke, a student at Brewer Elementary, said she is ready for the commitment.
"It means that working hard is very important if you really want to go to college," said Ashley, who wants to become a pediatrician.
Quandre Lewis, now a ninth-grader, was in the first group of Columbus Scholars in 2009. He has been able to keep a B average but admits he sometimes needs support.
The older scholars also are asked to be role models for other students.
"They depend on you to do a lot of stuff," said Quandre, who plans to become an engineer.
Holden, now a professor at the University of Nevada who still lives in Columbus, said the program's goal is to make college possible for Muscogee County students who have outstanding academic records but come from difficult family circumstances.
"We try to identify these kids from racially diverse circumstances before life beats them down," said Holden, chairman of the group. "We give them a hand up, not a hand out."
Holden also said there is talent all over Columbus.
"There is as much talent, as much intellectual capacity, as much God given ability in south Columbus as there is in Green Island," he said. "I believe that in my soul and that is why we do this."