With a pen in hand and a three-page agreement, 10 honors students were inducted Saturday into the seventh annual Columbus Scholars program, which helps low-income fifth graders with college funding if they continue with the program through high school.
More than 120 volunteers, teachers and scholars from six other classes filled the cafeteria at Richards Middle School for the induction ceremony. As Columbus Scholars, each student must maintain a 3.0 GPA until they graduate from high school.
Since the first group of students were selected in 2009, the program now has nearly 60 students who are on track to pursue a college education.
Ben Holden, former executive editor of the Ledger-Enquirer and one of 12 members of the board of directors, said the nonprofit corporation has raised $535,000 to help students with college.
"Although we don't say how much each kid is going to get, not a dime will go for administration," he said.
New scholars were all smiles after the ceremony.
"I feel great," said Quinlyn Robertson. "I hope to accomplish, by being scholar, is becoming a veterinarian. That has been what I have been focusing on and reading books on."
Quinlyn said she heard about the program through her teacher at Wynnton Arts Academy.
"I said, 'OK I will be interested in it,'" she said. "I'm very happy I got in."
Malachi Irby, a student at Lonnie Jackson Academy, hopes to make good grades and become a technical engineer.
He wants to tinker with electronics, NASA space technology and sending rovers to Mars.
"It feels pretty good," he said.
To reach their goals, scholars are provided mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley and they attend monthly and summer enrichment sessions with backyard pool parties, trips to Callaway Gardens and other activities outside the school.
Niki Stout, a Columbus High School student and a member of the first class of scholars, said students don't worry about school at the events.
"They try to make it more about just learning," she said. "Learn every other thing outside of school and it's so great to come together."
Scholars have grown close as a group over the years.
"I can probably say everyone here is my family," Niki said.
Kia Chambers, an at-large member of the Muscogee County School Board, was guest speaker for the event with the theme, "The Power of Education to Change Your Life."
She encouraged the scholars to remember three things: Always put education first, strive for excellence and be willing to give back to the community and help others.
"Education is something no one can ever take from you," she said.
TEN NEW SCHOLARS
Ten students were inducted into the Seventh Annual Columbus Scholars program at Richards Middle School on Saturday.
Jayda Beard, J.D. Davis Elementary School
Mariah Bell, Fox Elementary School
Kay Leauna Daugherty, Waddell Elementary School
Cornellius Foster, Dorothy Heights Elementary School
Malachi Irby, Lonnie Jackson Academy
Michael Martin, Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy
Marcus McMickle Jr., J.D. Davis Elementary School
Brayan Mejia-Rivera, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
Kenya Pickard, Fox Elementary School
Quinlyn Robertson, Wynnton Arts Academy