Alumni group awards annual scholarships
BY JENNY WHITE
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Christy O’Leary, the mother of Nash Central High School senior Jordan O’Leary, said she wishes there were more Kevin Joneses in the world.
Jordan O’Leary and 13 other local high school seniors received a Bulldog Alumni Community Scholarship from the nonprofit group’s founder, Kevin Jones, at a ceremony Tuesday at Country Inn and Suites.
While the O’Leary family is excited to celebrate Jordan’s upcoming graduation, they’ve also spent some time worrying about how they’re going to pay for Jordan’s college education.
“It’s stressful,” Christy O’Leary said about crunching the numbers and figuring out if their family could pay for Jordan to attend N.C. Wesleyan College in the fall. “People like Kevin who care about kids in our community and want to help make college more attainable really make a difference for families like ours. We can’t thank him enough.”
Pearline Lynch, grandmother of Zaniya Caine, who graduated from Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School and is a BAC scholarship recipient, said sending her granddaughter to college is an expensive endeavor.
“It’s very important to us that she goes to college, but paying for it all is hard,” Lynch said, “We’re thankful for this scholarship to help us and for how many they’re giving to others in the community, too.”
Caine will be attending N.C. Central University.
Jones said when he graduated from N.C. A&T University in 2012, his enthusiasm for his new career in public service was tempered by anxiety caused by his looming student debt. With a young family to support, Jones said he wished he had just $1,000 less to pay off — any little bit would have helped.
The Bulldog Alumni Community Scholarships seek to do just that for as many local college-bound seniors it can — offering $1,000 scholarships to deserving high school seniors. Jones founded the organization in 2014. The nonprofit alumni group has given out over $50,000 in the past five years. This year that grand total grows to $64,000 raised.
Jones said he started his fundraising for the 2019 scholarships right after he gave out last year’s awards. Most of the fundraising is done via a GoFundMe campaign that runs for about 12 months.
“We are one of those fundraisers that doesn’t get really big donations,” Jones said. “We are more likely to get little donations from a lot of people. And I like it like that. It really is a community effort.”
Jones told the scholarship recipients to remember who contributed to the award they were receiving.
“Remember this scholarship is from your hometown,” he said. “You have an entire community rooting for you to succeed.”
One feature about the BAC scholarships that make them stand out is the ongoing mentoring Jones offers the students throughout their college career.
“I’ve been known to call and check up on you,” he joked to the students on Tuesday. “But really, I am here to help you find contacts to get internships, jobs or help you find a mentor in your field of study. I’m giving you a scholarship today, but the end goal is that I want you to be successful in your chosen career — however I can help you with that.”
Jones said he thinks helping Rocky Mount kids attend college is an investment in the local community.
“We have scholars on the East Coast, West Coast and some studying abroad. We have scholars attending Ivy League schools and scholars attending local community colleges,” Jones said. “To see these homegrown leaders coming into their own and making a difference across our nation and across the world means so much — but what means more is that they've begun returning home to make a difference here.”
Jones said so far one BAC scholarship graduate has returned to the Twin Counties after graduating from college to teach in a local school, and many more have committed to do so.
"To have six graduation classes of BAC Scholars in the books is simply amazing. This year's group is another group of amazing kids with unlimited potential,” he added.
The recipients of this year’s BAC Scholarships are Maggie Lewis, Northern Nash High School (Western Carolina University); Kenley Byrd, NNHS (Campbell University); Haley Hiatt, NNHS (UNC-Wilmington); Pernell Griffin Jr., NNHS (Winston-Salem State University); Jordan O’Leary, Nash Central High School (N.C. Wesleyan College); Krystal Sanchez-Sagrero, NCHS (East Carolina University); Keshav Patel, NCHS (East Carolina University); Omar Richardson, NCHS, (Elizabeth City State University); Ashonna Wiggins, Rocky Mount High School, (Nash Community College); Elijah Rochelle, RMHS (East Carolina University); Victor Ward Jr., RMHS (N.C. State University); Aniah Bland, Southern Nash High School (East Carolina University); CeCe Adams, SNHS (UNC-Chapel Hill); and Zaniya Caine, Nash-Rocky Mount Early College (N.C. Central University).
For more information on the BAC Scholarships, visit https://www.bacsf.org/. Jones is accepting donations for 2020 graduate scholarships.