By Emmanuel Freeman, TSU News Service
NASHVILLE – Leona Dunn is finally enjoying college life and stressing less about school fees. She is grateful.
“My first year in college I paid over $1,200 out of pocket from what I saved up over the summer to help me stay in college,” said Dunn, a junior communications major at Tennessee State University.
That experience was the beginning of some tough times for the Omaha, Neb. native who had just come out of foster care. She was barely able to keep up with the payment plan she had worked up, which made registering for the next semester even more difficult.
“My balance was still off,” Dunn said. “I had no one back home to help. And coming from foster care, the system doesn’t exactly just give children owned by the state full ride scholarships to anywhere even if they had an exceptional GPA and ACT score like I did.”
But thanks to some “nice people” and “great organizations,” Dunn is now worrying less about tuition and focusing more on her academics. She received financial assistance from the Links, and the Tennessee State University Women’s Center.
“With all of this help I had to come up with only $200 this year …a huge blessing. I am so grateful,” she said.
On April 7, Dunn, and fellow students who received help through scholarship donations, had a chance to say, “Thank You.”
It was the 6th Annual Scholarship Appreciation Program and Reception, or “Donor Appreciation,” held in Kean Hall. The event, organized by the TSU Foundation, allows scholarship recipients to meet face-to-face with donors to thank them for their generosity.
TSU President Glenda Glover said scholarship donors help the university stay on the path of excellence by ensuring that students receive quality education through their gifts.
“Because of you, our students are able to matriculate,” Glover said. “They get to come, they get to stay and they get to graduate because of your dollars. We are just so grateful.”
This year, nearly 280 people, including students, donors and special guests attended the program featuring songs, recognition of donors and a special toast. Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, vice president for Research and Institutional Advancement, provided remarks.
Eloise Abernathy Alexis, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement, said the program gave the students a “unique opportunity” to interact with the donors.
“We send out postcards, letters and notes to donors to show our appreciation for their gifts, but this is the moment when donors and students really get to come together face to face to give and receive appreciation,” Alexis said.
Dr. Darlene Harris-Vasser, assistant director of Donor Relations, coordinates the reception each year. She said it is exciting to see the joy on donors’ faces when they meet the students in person.
“They are just so elated to see all of those students speaking about their educational goals, future plans and how their (donors’) contributions are making it possible for them to achieve their goals,” Harris-Vasser said.
The Women’s Center, one of the donors that offered Dunn financial assistance, develops and sponsors programming that enhances the skills of women and assists in their development as scholars and professionals.
According to Seanne Wilson, director of the center, Dunn approached the center to inquire about assistance.
“As Leona is a huge supporter of the Women’s Center and its events, the center was happy to assist her with the request,” Wilson said.
In appreciation, Dunn wants to give back to help others.
“Hopefully I want to have my own endowed scholarship when I become an alumna to help others and give back for the help I received,” she said.
(For information on how to support the TSU Foundation or make a scholarship donation, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/foundation/.)