HCEF scholars thank donors for help in affording college

By Pete Zamplas

Thirteen local scholars have been honored for earning scholarships from the Henderson County Education Foundation, with good grades and a zest to learn and train for careers. They were spotlit at HCEF’s annual membership kickoff and ice cream social Aug. 5. Each one there spoke about career plans and extracurriculars. Several noted they would be hard-pressed to afford college or cover side expenses, without help of these scholarships. HCEF Executive Director Dr. Don Jones noted the foundation provides 75 students with scholarships totaling $100,700 in 2012-13. With tuition costs cost-prohibitive for many families, or saddling students with loans taking years to pay off, every dollar of assistance helps.

The Marker Science Scholarship is a “full ride” renewable for four years. The third and fourth and most recent recipients, Aubrey and Medd, expressed their gratitude. “Without support of this foundation and the Markers especially,” curly-haired Medd said, “I could not have gone to college.” He majors in computer science. His twin Dakota Medd, also a North Henderson High alumnus, is a junior at N.C. State. Tall Aubrey, Hendersonville High’s valedictorian this spring, was in varsity basketball and volleyball. She credited the “generosity of the Markers and the Education Foundation” for enabling her to afford college. “It’s a relief to know I won’t have to work through college,” so she can focus on studying. She aims to major in chemistry, then go to graduate school. The original Marker scholar, Francisco Rodriguez, interned with NASA, graduated from N.C. State, and married. He “lives in a big house in Raleigh” and called Dr. Jones while working in Canada, Jones said. New HCEF scholarships include the Selee Engineering Scholarship, which in part is for those wanting to return home to work in contrast to exodus of many bright students. The inaugural one goes to Wyatt, a sixth-generation county native who said he indeed wants to settle here. He was in North Henderson’s band, a vastly-revitalized program boosted by HCEF grants. Wyatt is starting studies at UNCA, and plans to transfer to N.C. State. East Henderson High new graduate Stewart is about to study music at UNC-CH. She said she aspires to “work with singers.” She has sung since age 4 in church choir, and took music lessons starting since fourth grade. She got the Tammy Belcher Scholarship, honoring Belcher who died in an auto wreck 19 years ago. Katie and Annie Wells both are juniors at Davidson with HHS Red and White Scholarships. They are carving out unique niches in academics and extracurriculars, and adventures this fall. Annie is into “slam poetry” and its assertive, theatrical oratory. She will study in Ireland this fall, while Katie will study in China for four months. Katie Wells spoke to the membership crowd in Chinese, which she is minoring in to go with her anthropology major. She was in a Chinese “immersion” program, last summer at a Vermont college. She thanked benefactors for “enriching our college experience.” Their brother, Andrew Wells Jr., is a Morehead-Cain scholar and incoming UNC-CH freshman. He was a star HHS lineman honored as a Carolina Panthers “community captain.” Shauna Scott got the latest Connie and Ricky Sparks Scholarship, largely for HHS school spirit. She said of college, “I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for it.” Though more scholars went to UNC-CH than elsewhere, arch-rival Duke was represented well by Heywood. She ran cross country for West Henderson High. Her scholarship is from Hunter Automotive. Harrison Hunter, of the Hunter Auto family who was an HHS lineman, ironically got the Boyd Football Scholarship from rival dealership Boyd Automotive. There were touching stories from Akopanor, Perry and Siedlecki. Siedlecki lived his first one-third of his life in Russia, and graduated from West Henderson High. His mother attended the event. The $1,000 from HCEF helped him attend college. He is “excited” to be a computer science and Spanish double major, at UNC-CH. Car dealer Chat Jones noted HCEF got Akopanor a computer system. The young man said he will major in criminal justice. He thanked the foundation for the Red and White scholarship for “helping me fulfill my dreams.” He said the key to academic success is “hard work, hope an determination.” Perry, HHS football and basketball standout and 2009 grad, is another Red and White scholar. He read his poem equating HCEF donors and others in the community to an extended “family,” which repeatedly helped him stay in college. He went from nearly flunking as a freshman to nearly making the dean’s list in his second year. Illness took away much of his junior year. But Perry got $2,000 from HCEF, to register back in school. He said the HCEF family “comes in all shapes, sizes and colors” with the common goal of helping youth overcome obstacles to prepare for careers and productive futures. He thanked mentors for “showing me how to use my wings.” HCEF will release its eighth annual BOGO (buy one, get one free) coupon book on Aug. 23. It is sold at the Visitor’s Center downtown, and local schools. The HCEF Fall Golf Classic is Oct. 8. For more on HCEF, call 698-8884 or check

(Photo) The 13 scholars in alphabetical order and their colleges are Dominique Akopanor (N.C. Central), Meagan Aubrey (UNC-Chapel Hill), Ashley Heywood (Duke), Harrison Hunter (Appalachian State), Jacob Medd (UNC-Charlotte), Darren Perry (UNCC), Shauna Scott (N.C. State), Voldymyr Siedlecki (UNC-CH), Alexandra Stewart (UNC-CH), Rayce Walker (UNC-CH), twins Annie and Katie Wells (both Davidson College), and Ryan Wyatt (UNC-Asheville). Hunter and Walker, a Morris Broadband scholar, did not make the event, but the other 11 did and all spoke. Several of their sponsors also attended.

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