Grad to achieve family milestone

HOOVER &8212; For one Spain Park High School graduate, the approach of August and all its accompanying &8220;firsts&8221;&8212;dormitory, potluck roommate, late-night cram session, college final&8212;come as parts of a bigger milestone. Amber Dennis will be the first in her family to attend college.

&8220;I come from a background where both my parents were drug addicts,&8221; Dennis said. Neither finished high school.

Dennis, who moved in with family friends several years ago, knew financing four years of tuition would be near impossible. But she also knew something much more important.

&8220;Ever since I was little, that was my big thing; I wanted to go to college,&8221; Dennis said. &8220;I just saw how much my parents struggled, and I didn&8217;t want a life like that for myself.&8221;

With the help of high school counselors, Dennis applied for a scholarship offered by the J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship Foundation. The program gives tuition awards to 15-20 students throughout the state, giving special consideration to applicants who are the first in their families to attend college.

Ahrian Davis Tyler, chairman of the board and program administrator, said Dennis stood out immediately among the other 400 applicants. &8220;To find someone who is a young person who is not only looking after themselves but helping look after others&8212;not only was it remarkable, but it was worthy of being rewarded,&8221; she said.

Dennis made honor roll throughout high school and volunteered regularly in the community, making birthday cards for nursing home patients, collecting food for the less fortunate, cleaning up the Cahaba River and tutoring classmates.

&8220;This is exactly the type of person that Smith scholarships are determined to aid,&8221; Tyler said.

Dennis plans to attend the University of South Alabama to study nursing. With a love of children, her long-term goal is to work in neonatal care.

For now, though, she&8217;s concentrating on the opportunity at hand. &8220;Now that I got the scholarship and I know why I&8217;m going [to college], I&8217;m OK,&8221; Dennis said.

For more information about the Smith Foundation, visit www.jcraigsmithfoundation.org