Centre College will welcome its first class of Grissom Scholars in fall of 2015, an inaugural group that represents a diverse set of exceptionally talented first-generation students arriving from eight states.
The groundbreaking Grissom Scholarship Program serves as the foundation for Centre’s plan to create the nation’s premier program for first-generation college students with proven academic achievement, high moral character and exceptional potential for leadership.
Beyond the inaugural class, ten incoming first-year scholars will be selected each year, with a total of 40 Grissom Scholars enrolled by the fall of 2018. In addition to a four-year, full-tuition scholarship, additional aid to cover remaining financial need will be available to those students who qualify. Grissom Scholars will also receive $5,000 in educational enrichment funds after they complete their first year at Centre. These funds can be used to pursue opportunities such as study abroad, independent research and academic internships.
In the summer before their first year at Centre, Grissom Scholars will participate in an orientation program focused on personal growth and team-building designed by Sarah Scott Hall, associate dean and director of the Grissom Scholars Program and Student Leadership. Grissom Scholars will also be provided with personal guidance and ongoing mentoring throughout their college career.
The College is expecting more than 75 first-generation students to arrive on campus this August, which is more than a 50 percent increase over last year’s numbers.
“I think students who may not have originally considered Centre suddenly did because of this scholarship opportunity,” Hall said.
“What I’ve found is that once students look into Centre, they fall in love with it,” she continued. “Even without the Grissom scholarship, the College provides great financial aid packages that make it affordable.” In fact, 90 percent of first-year Centre students receive need-based aid or merit scholarships, a figure that has put Centre on the map as one of the nation’s best value colleges multiple times.
All Grissom scholars will be required to participate in the newly established Centre Firsts club on campus—a fun, vibrant social club dedicated to first-generation students and equity in education.
Additionally, the incoming class of Grissom Scholars will be assigned peer mentors who will be carefully selected, successful, first-generation students. Once the program has been around for at least two years, that cycle will continue, with current Grissom Scholars becoming mentors for a future incoming class.
Hall sent an email to Centre faculty and staff in the fall of 2014 garnering interest among those willing to assist with first generation student programming. The response, she said, was incredible.
“There were 91 faculty and staff who responded, 52 of whom were first-generation graduates themselves.
“The excitement about first-generation students was wonderfully overwhelming,” Hall continued. “It was very personal for a lot of people.”
At least one out of every six Centre faculty members are first-generation graduates, and almost half of the College’s senior staff members are first-generation graduates.
“First-generation students held more leadership roles on campus than non first-generation in 2013-14,” Hall said. “We have high hopes that this incoming class of first-generation students will maintain that tradition and take Centre by storm.”
Established by Marlene and J. David Grissom, the program is funded by the largest single gift ever received by Centre in the College’s 195-year history. Although the full amount is not being disclosed at the request of the donors, the gift is believed to be the largest single donation ever given to any Kentucky college or university, public or private. A 1960 Centre graduate and life trustee, Grissom chaired the Centre College Board of Trustees for more than two decades.
“We owe a tremendous thanks to the Grissom family for giving this opportunity to students,” Hall said. “The impact on the overall community has been huge and, no doubt, will continue to grow.”
The incoming class of Grissom Scholars are:
Allyson Becker, Wisconsin
Thomas Case, Kentucky
Liz Chavez, Texas
Valeria Garcia Lopez, Tennessee
Jon Jones, Georgia
Leah Kelly, Kentucky
DeMontre’ Lewis, Ohio
Mariama Minteh, Kentucky
Breanna Olson, Minnesota
Emmely Ovalle, Florida
by Anne Evans
May 19, 2015