More than 200 students are one check closer to paying for their college education.
The Etowah Scholarship Foundation handed out 213 scholarships worth $240,000 to recent high school graduates, current college students and nontraditional students during the 2018 ESF Scholarship Announcement Ceremony Thursday night at Cartersville First Baptist Church on Douthit Ferry Road.
The recipients were selected from more than 350 applicants to receive scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 that were sponsored by local businesses, civic organizations, churches, community groups and individuals, often in honor or in memory of someone.
"This group of 2018 scholarship recipients has been the largest group yet," ESF Operations Director Dawn Evans said. "They have high expectations and goals for the future, and we’re very proud of them."
At the ceremony, Evans recognized the deserving students and thanked the benevolent donors for supporting the educational pursuits of Bartow County's young people.
"It's truly an honor to be part of such a generous community," she said. "Together, we are providing opportunities for our local students that not many communities have so we're all very blessed to live in Bartow County."
ESF board Chairman Steve Dougherty also expressed his gratitude to the donors for their generosity.
"Some of these scholarships have been funded for many, many years by these caring and generous people," he said. "Some are new scholarships to memorialize the loss of family members or friends. Some are to honor special people in our lives who have made a difference. Whatever the reason, it's our privilege as a foundation to honor these special people in this way."
Dougherty said board members hope that, through their fundraising efforts, "the monumental and overwhelming cost of college will be just a little bit less daunting for each student."
"Students, you're sitting here on the brink of what could be the most exciting years of your life," he said. "I encourage you to shoot for the moon and take bold steps. I know from my experience that the thing you do not want to do is aim any lower than you think you can possibly achieve."
Also at the event were Catrice Hufstetler, vice president of administrative services at Chattahoochee Technical College, and Phoebe Stieber, associate administrator, ethics and compliance officer for Cartersville Medical Center, who both received needs-based scholarships from ESF in the 1980s for all four years of college and now "have come full circle" by serving on the board of directors, Hufstetler said.
"One of the things people sometimes don't think about with scholarships is when someone provides you a scholarship, especially someone that you don't really know, it also gives you motivation and encouragement because that's somebody saying, 'I believe in you. You can do it,'" she said.
Odera Anokwalu-Igwebuike, a 2016 graduate of Cartersville High School, received one of two $1,000 scholarships from Cartersville Medical Center to help her go back to school.
The Cartersville resident has enrolled in Georgia State University to major in neuroscience.
"It's basically my pre-med so I can go to medical school," she said. "I didn't want to go the traditional biology route."
Receiving a scholarship is "such a relief," the 20-year-old said.
"It's nice to know that so many people are looking out for me, even though I don't know them, and getting to meet them here makes it even better because it's like you and I do not know each; however, you believe in me to do good things, and that's fantastic," she said.
Stieber, representing the hospital, was thrilled for Anokwalu-Igwebuike.
"I spoke with her just a few minutes ago," she said. "She is so excited, a lot of energy. I think that's great, a great recipient."
The hospital has been sponsoring scholarships since 2013 to "support the students in the community," Stieber said.
"We know they're our future, and we love participating and providing a scholarship to someone in our community," she said.
Tyler Friedrich, who graduated from Cartersville High in May, was awarded the $1,000 Joey Whorton Memorial Scholarship to help him pursue a double major in parks, recreation and tourism management and nursing at Clemson University in South Carolina.
"I was actually really excited because with being out of state, it's a lot of money, and [I want to do] everything I can do to help my parents out," the Cartersville resident said.
Evans said the foundation, which has distributed more than $6 million in scholarships to almost 7,000 students since 1982, awards funds to as many students as possible each year.
"Although we couldn’t award a scholarship to all who applied, we strive every year to close the gap between the number of applicants and the number of scholarships awarded," she said.
Both traditional and nontraditional students from Cartersville/Bartow County who plan to enroll or are enrolled full time in undergraduate, graduate or technical programs are eligible to apply for scholarships.