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The Joe N. Belyeu Gymnasium of Central High School Coosa County was crowded with 250 students visiting representatives from 17 colleges and universities for the inaugural statewide scholarship fair last Friday. Photo(s) submitted
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
More than 200 students visited the Coosa County School District last Friday for the Coosa County Fall Scholarship Fair, with 17 colleges represented.
Annette Long, professional guidance counselor at Central High School Coosa County, held the event as the first statewide scholarship fair at the school, held in the Joe N. Belyeu Gymnasium. Long plans to make the scholarship fair an annual event.
In addition to students from Central High School, students from 23 surrounding schools also attended the scholarship fair. The event was a resounding success, with $3.3 million being awarded in scholarships.
The Infinite Scholars Program Inc. and Coosa County School District invited all high school juniors and seniors from all school districts in Alabama to attend the fair. Schools in the districts were asked to provide transportation for the high school juniors and seniors since transportation is often identified as an obstacle for students, as well as families.
Students were encouraged to bring numerous copies of their unofficial school transcript, ACT/SAT scores, resume, letters of recommendation, and a 250-word essay explaining why a higher education is important.
Admission representatives from numerous accredited colleges and universities located throughout the country were in attendance. Some even confirmed before the event that they would be accepting eligible students on the spot and awarding partial or full scholarships.
In a letter to school districts in the state, Long stated that “the annual scholarship fairs are designed to assist juniors and seniors in high school with making their higher education goals and aspirations an attainable reality.”
One feature that also set the Coosa County Scholarship Fair apart was that they did not charge colleges and universities a booth fee. The colleges and universities were asked to also consider waiving application fees for students attending the event if possible.
The scholarship fair is part of the Infinite Scholars Program, which is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 2003 by Thomas Ousley.
Ousley taught high school English and history for 29 years with the Jennings, Missouri, School District. While teaching he worked on numerous mentoring and educational initiatives to assist low-income students to attend college.
Ousley reportedly found that too few of his students who he felt deserved to go to college actually enrolled because they did not believe they could afford to go. As a result, Ousley began the Infinite Scholars Program to ensure that financially disadvantaged students could receive the funding they needed to attend college.
Now, nearly 80% of participants in the Infinite Scholars Program enroll in college, and ISP is reportedly one of the top higher-education inclusion, diversity and equity providers in the nation.
Additionally, the program is globally recognized for “outstanding and invaluable college access success services provided to at-risk youth that reside in impoverished communities.”
Those interested in learning more about ISP can visit www.infinitescholar.org. Coosa County students and families can contact high school counselor Annette Long at email@example.com or 256-377-4384, extension 2206, for more information on the program.