The Business and Professional Women's Organization of Cumberland County believes in the power of education. That's why each year the club honors local students with scholarships to help them pursue their dreams.
In early June, BPW members held a special meeting at the home of outgoing President Teva Rainey. In addition to its installation of officers, the club awarded scholarships to a single mother who is working diligently to improve the future for herself and her daughter and a high school graduate who is dedicated to reaching his goals and ambitions.
The first scholarship awarded that evening was the June Frazier Fresh Start Scholarship, which was created to assist women in furthering their education to either enter the work force or improve their present employment situation.
This year's winner of the June Frazier Fresh Start Scholarship was Robin Powers of Crab Orchard. Powers, the mother of a 14-year-old daughter, was one of three students who applied for the scholarship, noted BPW member June Frazier.
"It was a difficult choice because two of the applications were very well done…, but we did come to an agreement and I'm so happy that Robin Powers is with us tonight," she said.
Frazier explained that it was Powers' future plans that helped the committee to make a final decision.
"I want to be a structural engineer," Powers said.
"That's unusual for a woman, isn't it," Frazier asked.
"Yes," Powers replied. "There's not that many women (engineers) in the area, and as far as structural engineering goes, there's none in this area that I know of."
Powers made it her goal to become a structural engineer a year ago after being laid off from a survey drafting position she held for 12 years. Taking her friend's suggestion, she decided to finish the education that she started 13 years ago at Tennessee Technology Center of Crossville.
"I enjoyed it so much that when I got laid off due to lack of work I thought this was the perfect opportunity to go back and learn more, and I'm glad I got that opportunity because there's more discipline and areas to go into than just drafting or mechanical," she stated.
After completing her studies at TTCC, Powers plans to enroll into Roane State Community College's pre-engineering program. After that she hopes to earn a bachelor's degree in structural engineering from Tennessee Technological University and open up a practice in Crossville.
Frazier and other scholarship committee members were not the only ones impressed with Powers’ future plans. Andrew Landrus, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who runs the Crab Orchard Care Center, was also impressed by her determination to become a structural engineer.
“I applaud every woman I see who desires to raise herself out of some of the rural communities in Cumberland County where women have not been given an equal chance to succeed,” said Landrus in a letter to the BPW. “I hope you can help her achieve her goals.”
The BPW plans to do just that. As the winner of the June Frazier Fresh Start Scholarship, Powers was presented with a $500 check to help with her tuition, textbooks and school supplies.
Although he was not at the meeting, high school graduate Dustin Smith can count on the BPW doing the same for him. As the recipient of the Helen Turner Thurman Memorial Scholarship, Smith will receive $1,000 next month to help further his education.
“Helen was a past president… who was into the arts of all types,” said Vancieneta Wisdom, chairman of the Helen Turner Thurman Scholarship Committee. “When she passed away from cancer at a very young age, her mother and family started the scholarship through BPW.”
The scholarship is presented annually by the BPW to a student majoring in architecture, interior design, computer science or the arts, including fine arts, drama and music.
This year the committee received eight applications, but they did not have as much difficultly choosing a winner like Frazier’s committee did.
Of the eight applications, only three made it through to final judging. After further review of the applications, the committee selected Smith as the winner based on his drive to maintain a 3.2 grade point average while working part-time.
“At the same time he had maintained this average at school, he was a part-time worker at the Dollar General Store, working 20 hours per week,” Wisdom explained. “This spoke very highly of him. It’s very difficult for a kid to work and still maintain a good grade point average.”
Jackie Thompson, school technology coordinator, agreed.
"While being employed outside of school, Dustin has still prevailed in his academics here at school… Dustin has high goals and solid ambitions. He is willing to work hard to reach these goals and ambitions," Thompson said in his letter of recommendation.
Smith plans on attending Roane State Community College to obtain his core classes and later transferring to a four-year university to earn his masters in web design and graphics.
To support this scholarship, Wisdom invites BPW members and the public to buy a copy of Cumberland County's First 100 Years by Helen Bullard and Joseph Marshall Krechniak. The book can be purchased for $25 at Wisdom TV.
"Every dime of this money goes into the scholarship fund," she said.
She later added, "I enjoy working on this (committee) and selling the book and trying to get this up to an amount that it will be self-supporting and we do not have to worry."
"Well, with you at the helm, I'm sure that's going to happen," Rainey stated.