Dec. 13, 2006
By George Mauzy
At what Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis called a "historic event," more than 250 high school seniors and their parents attended the first public gathering at the university's new Baker University Center Ballroom. They came to learn about one of the university's most unique scholarships.
The large gathering of hopefuls, some who drove nearly three hours, learned about the Appalachian Scholars Award Program and what it takes to be chosen as one of this year's 10 recipients.
Going to college can be difficult when you're from a place where the percentage of adults who have a four-year degree is half the national average. Richard Greenlee, associate provost for Appalachian access and enrichment programs, knows firsthand.
"My dad had an eighth grade education and my mom didn't graduate from high school," says the Belmont County native. "They taught me a lot of wonderful values, but they couldn't mentor or guide me in pursuing a college education."
Greenlee, who joined the Army as a social work/psychology specialist after high school, didn't think he was wealthy enough or smart enough for college. But when a supervisor stepped in to encourage him, Greenlee started night school at the University of Maryland.
"I had to learn the culture of education, and it was a completely different world than I had grown up in," Greenlee, the son of a coal miner, says.
Graduate work followed. Then a faculty position at Ohio University, where the man who never imagined he would go to college became the chair of the Department of Social Work.
Now, in the advocacy role he began this year in the Office of the Provost, Greenlee's job is to help open doors for students in the Appalachian region to attend Ohio University and achieve. He develops outreach and enrichment programs with students and regional communities, and he mentors students who share his roots.
Meeting once a week with the Appalachian Scholars lets him help that group of students navigate any challenges they may face, such as adjusting to a campus of 20,000 after attending small rural high schools.
"This is a very strong class," he says. "My purpose is to help these students realize they can be anything they want to be and help them accomplish that."
The scholarship, in its second year, is a four-year renewable, need-based award valued at $10,000 each year. It includes an annual book stipend and participation in a community of success-building programs. It is reserved for students from the Appalachian region interested in pursuing a four-year degree at Ohio University.
G. Christine Taylor, assistant to the president for diversity, said the scholarship's selection committee is looking for students who have enthusiasm, the motivation to succeed, academic achievement and financial need.
"We are looking for quality students, with need," she explained, adding that the committee looks for candidates who "have shown they have what it takes to excel in college."
Rebecca Capper, an inaugural member of this year's first class of Appalachian Scholars, told the audience how much the program has meant to her.
Capper said like so many of the students in the audience, she was intimidated by the thought of coming to Ohio University when she sat in the audience at the same event a year ago. Hailing from a place she describes as "20 minutes south of Ironton in the boonies," she shared that one of her high school teachers warned her not to get her hopes up of becoming an Appalachian scholar.
The summer pre-matriculation program for instance helped get her prepared and comfortable with going from a graduating class of 78 people in Lawrence County, Ohio, to a large campus.
"When I walked on campus and saw 20,000 faces, I had 10 new friends that I can really count on!" Capper said.
Richard Greenlee, who serves the university as the Appalachian Scholars adviser, associate provost for Appalachian access and enrichment programs and chair of the Department of Social Work, shared his personal story of overcoming the odds and earning a doctoral degree after growing up poor in Appalachia.
"If I can do it, you can do it," he told the students in the audience. "No matter what happens to you in this selection process, you need to go to college. Times are changing and you need a college education to succeed in this world. I believe that one-by-one if each of you graduates with a college degree, together we will rejuvenate our once proud communities and that will make all the difference."
Greenlee applauded the first Appalachian Scholars for having a successful first quarter this fall collectively accumulating a 3.4 GPA. He said the great thing about this program is that it opens doors for people to attend school who wouldn't have had an opportunity to do so otherwise.
"The first class is a delight to mentor -- in fact they are some of the best students I've worked with in my 17 years as a professor at Ohio University," Greenlee said. "The first class has proven to be very motivated and hard-working critical thinkers."
Albany, Ohio, resident Amy Brinkley and her father, Phil, attended the session to find out how she could apply for the scholarship as a home-schooled student.
Barb Hall and her daughter, Dani, traveled from Marietta, Ohio, to find out more about the requirements of the program.
This year, six Appalachian Scholars will be selected to attend the Athens campus. The Chillicothe, Eastern, Southern and Zanesville regional campuses will each choose one new Appalachian Scholar. This second class of Appalachian Scholars will be announced in May.
To apply for the Appalachian Scholars Award Program, students must:
- Reside in one of the 29 Appalachian counties in Ohio
- Demonstrate financial need by filling out a FAFSA form
- Have a FAFSA expected family contribution of no more than $8,000
- Be admitted to Ohio University before Feb. 23
- Have an ACT score of 17 or more
- Rank in the top 40 percent of their graduating class
- Be enrolled in college preparatory courses at their high school
- Return their Appalachian Scholars Award Program packet and transcripts to Ohio University by Feb. 23
Students also are strongly encouraged to complete the FAFSA application by the Feb. 15 priority date.
The 29 Appalachian counties in Ohio are Adams, Athens, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Clermont, Columbiana, Coshocton, Gallia, Guernsey, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Tuscarawas, Vinton and Washington.
Students who don't receive an Appalachian scholarship still have other financial aid options.
The Appalachian Scholars program joins Ohio University's portfolio of opportunities available to students from the region. The university annually gives more than $900,000 in scholarship money to students from Appalachia through more than 150 scholarships that range from full-ride Cutler Scholarships to smaller scholarships that provide cash for books and other small expenses. For more information on these scholarships contact the Ohio University Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at 740-593-4141 or www.ohio.edu/financialaid.
"An important thing to remember is that more than half of incoming Ohio University students receive some form of financial aid if the FAFSA is completed on time," said Valerie Miller, associate director of scholarships and client services, who was on hand to field questions from attendees.
For more information on the Appalachian Scholars Program, contact the President's Office for Diversity at 740-593-9376 or visit www.ohio.edu/diversity/appalachianscholars/forms.cfm.
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing. Photos by Rick Fatica.