Turning $50 into $1,000

For one-time family dues GSU students can qualify for Parents Association scholarships

Imani Gay aims to graduate from Georgia State University with as little debt as possible as she progresses toward degrees in marketing and French, with her goal a master’s in international business. With two parents who work, Gay faces a common dilemma for the middle-class college student: she can’t afford all the costs, and she doesn’t qualify for need-based financial aid.

That’s why the $1,000 scholarship from the GSU Parents Association means so much to her and her family. The funding is a bonus to the membership benefits included in the $50 one-time dues.

“My mother joined the Parents Association because she thought that it would keep her connected to GSU and because she knew it would benefit me,” said Gay, a junior. “She saw an opportunity for me through the association [and] the fact that their membership paid off in the form of helping me to pay for school exceeded all expectations.”

Any student, including graduate students, whose parent is a member of the Parents Association, is eligible. Other requirements include a 3.0 grade-point average and “a strong commitment to Georgia State University.” Next year, the Parents Association will offer four $1,000 scholarships with applications opening Feb. 1 and only available online.

“We are seeing a lot more students who are working to make ends meet just like their parents, and they don’t qualify for the financial aid that they need. The middle class gets left out,” said Melissa Ohlfest, program specialist in the Office of New Student Orientation and Parent Relations. “The scholarships are a great way for us to support them throughout their academic careers here. If we can help them graduate without debt, that’s what we want to do.”

Currently, 1,800 families have joined the GSU Parents Association, which has a goal of adding 450 more this year. The one-time $50 membership fee also gives families access to an e-newsletter and webinars that point out ways to best support their students. Family Weekend is scheduled Oct. 5–7 and will include a tailgate sponsored by the Parents Association.

Ohlfest thanked the GSU Call Center for helping boost membership. “We’re gaining a lot more parents who want to be connected to their students, and the association is a good way to do that without overpowering their students,” she said.

The essays from Gay and other winners detail their parents’ encouragement and support of their education and dreams, and how much they want to relieve their family’s financial burden.

“If I could say they have supported me in every way, I still might not be saying enough,” Gay wrote in her essay of her father, Cedric Gay, an IT professional, and mother, Gale Gay, an editor and writer.

“They completely support me financially; they uplift me when I am going through a hard semester and they offer advice that helps me outside of school.… They have given so much to me, and I am extremely grateful for their support.”

The $1,000 scholarships also affirm the investment of time, talent and resources that parents have made in their children throughout their lives.

“My parents did everything and more that they could for me and my sister,” said Danielle Daoust, an art major and Pantherettes dance team member. “They paid countless dollars on dance classes, costumes, competitions, recitals, etc. Receiving this scholarship has been my way to repay them in a way. Not only has it helped lessen my financial stresses, but it has allowed my parents to be reassured that they have raised a daughter to be proud of.”

Another recipient for 2012, senior Kristian Terrell, said the scholarship will help her family, especially because her younger brother, Kevin “Jordan” Terrell, also attends GSU.

“My parents and I were elated after being notified that I had won the scholarship,” said Terrell, who has achieved a 3.9 GPA and plans to attend law school after graduation in May.

“I have always been appreciative of the opportunities that my parents have afforded me primarily because my parents weren’t afforded the educational opportunities that I have been grateful to partake in,” said Terrell. “Upon graduating from Georgia State next year, I will be the first in my family with a college diploma, an accolade that I hold with utmost honor.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors 404-413-3424