County scholarship foundation impacting students

Recent recipients of the Smith Scholarship Foundation scholarships, which has been helping Alabama students for the past decade. (Contributed)

Recent recipients of the Smith Scholarship Foundation scholarships, which has been helping Alabama students for the past decade. (Contributed)

By CAROLINE CARMICHAEL / Staff Writer

The Smith Scholarship Foundation, which was founded in 2004 by the late Mignon C. Smith as the J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarship Foundation, is changing students’ lives and bettering the future of the state of Alabama.

The Shelby County-based program seeks Alabama students who have overcome financial, personal or physical difficulties. Awarded students are hard-workers, and are both servants and leaders in their communities.

Through the program, they often become the first in their families to attend college, and many graduate to have very successful careers as doctors, teachers engineers and more.

This year, the foundation awarded 26 scholarships.

“I’d like to do something that gives back,” Smith once said, “I think that the young people of Alabama are our best hope, and I think we need to keep them here.”

Named after Smith’s parents who inspired the program by their own academic convictions and collegiate support of Alabama students, the Smith Scholarship Foundation has awarded almost 200 scholarships in its 10 years of existence.

It is now the largest private scholarship foundation for Alabama students.

Currently, the program has 56 students.

Eligible applicants are high school seniors in Alabama schools, regardless of the institution’s status as public, private or at-home. Besides completing the FAFSA process, applicants must have a C+ average or above and must complete the ACT exam.

All scholars must attend an Alabama college.

A last-dollar program, the foundation “makes up the difference” of up to $15,000 per year of remaining college costs after additional scholarships and financial aid acquired by the students.

“Every dollar saved goes to their families,” explained executive director Ahrian Dudley.

Students may qualify for scholarship coverage of up to four years of tuition, including room, board, supplies, fees and even study abroad costs.

“We do things a family would do,” said Dudley.

The high-accountability program requires scholars to agree to specific, attend foundation events, maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5, complete volunteer and charity work and attend helpful seminars that prepare them for college life.

The program has provided suits, dining etiquette classes, 24/7 mentors and even such things as coat drives to supply the scholars’ various needs.

To scholars in need of housing over school breaks, the program offers the Smith House.

“This is our village,” said Dudley, “and these are all of our children.”

The Smith Scholarship Program continues to grow in its impact as it is shaped by its incoming recipients of its services, but also by the alumnae touched by the program and seeking to return the favor.

“It’s the students leading us where we need to go,” said Dudley. “If the kids we have in this program are going to be our world’s next leaders, then we’re going to be fine.”

Applications will be available online beginning Sept. 29.

Each Alabama high school English teacher and counselor has a packet containing further details.

For more information orto apply, visit Smithscholarships.com