A chance to get a college education improved for 10 fifth-graders Saturday 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 the dream of a college education.
Since the program started in 2009 at the home of former Ledger-Enquirer executive editor Ben Holden, Columbus Scholars has 43 low-income students and has raised about $400,000 for scholarships.
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.
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All students in the program must maintain a B average, attend monthly events, must not be involved in any crimes of moral turpitude as a scholar and follow other guidelines.
Ashley Selondra Cooke, a student at Brewer Elementary, said she is ready for the commitment as a scholar.
“It means that working hard is very important if you really want to go to college,” said Ashley. She 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 to needing support to keep going. The 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 be an engineer.
Holden, now a professor at the University of Nevada but still lives in Columbus, said the program’s goal is to make college possible for Muscogee County fifth-graders 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,” he said. “We give them a hand up not a hand out.”
The Fifth Annual Columbus Scholars Induction Ceremony was held Saturday at Richards Middle School. Here is a list of the fifth-graders and their schools:
Matthew Amond Banks, Cusseta Road Elementary School
Reina Diane Brinson, Lonnie Jackson Academy
Ashley Selondra Cooke, Brewer Elementary School
Ayanna Kamari Hardison, Muscogee Elementary School
Ayvah Juliana Horner, Britt David Elementary Magnet Academy
Patrick Lugtu Longares, Blanchard Elementary School
Elijah McClendon, Muscogee Elementary School
Errial Tameka Savariau, South Columbus Elementary School
Sean Reno Steen, J.D. Davis Elementary School
Ezekiel A'mari Nicholas Taylor, J.D. Davis Elementary School