Petal Education Foundation hands out $48,500 in scholarships

By HASKEL BURNS,
As part of their mission to enhance the quality of education in the Petal School District by providing private funding, the Petal Education Foundation this year awarded 84 scholarships totaling $45,800 to graduating seniors at Petal High School.
 
To give those students a chance to meet and thank the donors of the scholarships, the foundation held on Monday its annual Scholarship Donor-Recipient Brunch at Petal-Harvey Baptist Church on South Main Street.
 
“As part of our ambassador program, I’ve been fully enlightened about the quality and the magnitude of character that Petal High School students have,” Leahne Lightsey, executive director of the Petal Education Foundation, told the crowd. “I get chill bumps thinking about Petal, Mississippi, and what is being fostered right here in the state.
 
“Young men and women, y’all can do anything. You have already probably studied equally as hard as what you’re going to do in your freshman year of college. So y’all get after it.”
 
The event’s keynote presentation was given by Chad Driskell, vice president for external affairs at the University of Southern Mississippi.
 
“Don’t just thank your donors today – remember who they are, and get their address and drop them a note in a year, and drop them a note in two years,” Driskell told the students. “These are the men and women who are investing in you, so you need to give them the return on that investment.
 
“These may be the men and women who give you your first job, or write that reference for you, or make that connection for you.”
 
Scholarships awarded include the Anderson Brothers Leadership Scholarship ($500), the Coach Si Thompson “Bootstrap” Scholarship ($500), the Ione Ginn Bone Education Scholarship ($1,000) and the Petal High School Junior ROTC Scholarship ($1,000).
 
Valorie Cochran, the winner of the $500 Petal Kiwanis Club Scholarship, said the award isn’t just about the monetary amount, but community and leadership skills.
 
“That’s a really big deal for me, because those are the top characteristics that I like in a person – service and leadership,” said Cochran, who plans to attend USM.
 
The Petal Education Foundation’s highest award, the $6,000 Robert E. Hendrix Scholarship, went to Marquise Bridges. Hendrix, who was the recipient of the 2005 Petal School District Hall of Fame Award, established the scholarship in 1995.
 
“I feel like it’s a blessing,” said Bridges, who plans to attend Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. “(My teacher) was telling me about all of (Hendrix’s) achievements and what kind of a guy he is, and know I’m excited to learn more about him. I feel like it’s more motivation for me.”
 
Aimee Hinton, who won the Robert E. Hendrix Scholarship in 2006, also was in attendance at the event. 
 
“It’s a blessing every day,” said Hinton, who teaches at Moselle Elementary School. “(Hendrix and I) text each other back and forth every other week, checking in and making sure that I’ve got everything.
 
“I’m already married with two kids and into my career six or seven years now. This scholarship has motivated me and helped me to get more. I’ve already gotten all the way to my specialist’s degree, just having the support from (Hendrix), so it’s been a big blessing.”
 
The scholarships were presented to the students Tuesday night at the 2018 Petal School District Academic Honors and Academic Hall of Fame Induction, held at the Petal Performing Arts Center. Rebecca Bedell, a 1983 graduate of Petal High School who currently serves as a representative for a designer labelwoman’s fashion company based in Los Angeles, was this years’ inductee into the Petal School District Academic Hall of Fame.
 

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