Photos by Rome City Schools
Planning for college often involves talks around the dinner table about the household budget. Tuition, fees and housing for college has become more expensive over the years and some families are really feeling the blow to their pocketbooks.
So, whenever students are recognized for their hard work in the classroom with a scholarship that will alleviate the stress of paying for their post-secondary education, parents rejoice in knowing that their child can study and be the best student they can be without worrying about the bills.
Berry College selects ten students per year to receive one of their most prestigious scholarships, the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship. Students who meet the requirements are selected from applicants in the U.S. and beyond, all hoping to make the largest college campus in the world a place to explore, grow and learn.
Rome High School is happy to announce that three of the Gate of Opportunity Scholars will come from their 2019 graduating class. Emma Clowdus, Reilly Thomas and Brenden Smothers were notified last week that they were awarded the opportunity to attend Berry College with a substantial reduction in tuition and fees.
The idea behind Berry’s Gate of Opportunity Scholarship program is to assist students who wish to attend, but the goal is also to immerse students in the culture of the college. By requiring the scholarship recipients to live and work on campus, they not only learn about their field of study but they also acquire valuable experience in the workplace, all while surrounded by the beauty Berry has become known for around the world.
Additionally, the relationship between parents and students, Berry College and donors invested in the program gives families a real opportunity to graduate with little to no college debt.
“Both of my parents went to Berry,” said Clowdus, “so they were aware of this scholarship and encouraged me to apply. The application process required us to write an essay and fill out an application online. Those students who were chosen from the applicants were invited to Berry for the interview process that lasted all day. This was a little nerve-wracking because it was a group interview. Then, we had activities scheduled for the rest for the day. I am super excited because I did not think I would get the scholarship and I look forward to studying business at Berry in the fall.”
Brenden Smothers said that he is also excited for the opportunity to attend a college that he knows well and has some connections to. “Being awarded this scholarship is really special to me and my family,” he said. “I was not expecting an offer, so I am still a little surprised. During my junior year, my astronomy teacher mentioned some of the opportunities at Berry College and she mentioned the dual-degree engineering program they offer. Then she mentioned this scholarship that could really help me with the expenses. That summer, I did my own research about the scholarship and scheduled a visit to Berry. I got a really good feel for the campus and I am really excited to study at Berry.”
“This is definitely a ten,” said Reilly Thomas when asked about her excitement level after finding out she would enter Berry in the fall as a Gate of Opportunity Scholar. “When I found out, my mom and I shed a few tears. I love environmental science and I also would like to study more about Psychology. I have some friends who attend school there and who are also a part of a youth group I attend called Young Life. That is how I heard about the scholarship and I am so happy I applied. I love the campus and I go hike there a lot, so I feel like Berry will offer me a great college experience. I have taken classes at Berry through Rome High’s dual enrollment program, so Rome has really helped to prepare me for college. I was able to see the similarities between classes at Berry and the AP classes I have taken here at Rome. The work I have done in high school has been helpful to me and I am sure I can make the transition into a college setting.”
“This scholarship is huge for our students,” said Amanda Howell, a two-time Berry graduate who now teaches English and Language Arts at Rome High School. “The scholarship was started in 2009 and is really about continuing Martha Berry’s wish to give opportunity to kids who need help with paying for college. What I love about this program is that it is a work-study scholarship. Students who accept the scholarship live and work on campus all year long. They really become the face of Berry College, and this opportunity is designed for phenomenal kids.”
Howell went on to say that the requirements are very strenuous because Berry only awards the best possible candidates with the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship.
“These kids really march to the beat of their own drum,” Howell smiled as her chin quivered and her eyes welled with tears of joy. “They want the Brendens, they want the Reillys and the Emmas. For some students, this is the difference in them really considering going to college and thinking they can’t afford it. To have three of those ten students chosen from our students here at Rome High means the world to me as an educator. This is a very lucrative scholarship, and because of their academic achievement, it is possible that they will receive other scholarships as well. So, this really is a difference maker for them and I am beyond happy to see these three wonderful students chosen by Berry College.”