5th graders inducted as Columbus scholars

Muscogee County student receives scholarships

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Ten academically talented but economically disadvantaged fifth grade students have been selected to receive a college scholarship and a long-term mentor through a collaboration with the Columbus Scholars Project and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley.

A scholarship "signing ceremony" and celebration for the new scholars was held Saturday, Jan. 24 at 10 a.m. at Richards Middle School, 2892 Edgewood Rd. The winning Scholars were personally notified at their schools by Columbus Scholars Project board members.

Columbus Scholars Project, in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley, raises $7,500 per selected scholar and transfers those privately raised funds to the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley then matches the students with a local mentor who supports the dream of college education.

The newest scholars bring to 50 the total number of children who are admitted to the program regardless of race or gender.

The Scholars who will be honored are:

Yakeeyia Gainous, J.D. Davis Elementary
Markayla Marshall, J.D. Davis Elementary
Jonathan Powell, J.D. Davis Elementary
Keshuan Winebush, Wesley Heights Elementary
Tru Sequin, Hannan Elementary Elementary
Ashley Sajous, Dorothy Heights Elementary
Chelzi Williams, Lonnie Jackson Elementary
Jamie Jackson, Jr., Lonnie Jackson Elementary
Taylor Wardlaw, Dorothy Heights Elementary
Zaria Smith, Key Elementary

These students, selected from among applicants in Fall 2014 from all Muscogee County School District elementary schools, join 40 previously selected 5th grade scholars who currently attend MCSD high schools and middle schools across five classes between the 6th and 10th grades.

The goal of Columbus Scholars is to make college possible for Muscogee County fifth graders who have outstanding academic records but come from difficult family circumstances. Columbus Scholars Project is in its sixth year.

"We try to identify these kids before life beats them down," said Ben Holden, chairman of Columbus Scholars Project. "We give them a hand up not a hand out."

Each student is matched with a mentor who provides support and guidance from the fifth grade through college. The BBBSCV screens the Big Brothers and Big Sisters and provides ongoing support to the mentoring relationship.

Marquitta Williams, Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley, noted that Columbus is different from other scholarship programs because it recognizes "the impact a mentoring relationship can have on the long-term success of a child."

The students and their mentors attend monthly enrichment sessions where they learn about everything from the criminal justice system to etiquette.

The Columbus Scholars Fund is administered and controlled by the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley. Funds will be provided to help meet the needs of each student during the college years. Traditional scholarships provide an award to a student who is already going to college. Columbus Scholars sets aside funds to motivate and help more students reach college.

To date, more than $450,000 in cash and stock-market appreciation has been raised and directed to the Community Foundation by the Columbus Scholars board. In addition, Columbus State University has guaranteed two students from earlier classes $10,000 each in scholarship funding. One hundred percent of all donations received to date have gone directly into the Columbus Scholars Fund at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley.

All administrative expenses of CS have been borne by board members or friends of the program, who contribute to a separate administrative fund. Donations can be sent and made payable to Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley/Columbus Scholars Fund, 1340 13th Street, Columbus, GA 31901.

Additional information can be found at

. You may also contact Marquitta Williams at 706-888-3701 or Ben Holden at 706-332-8426.

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