News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 20, 2018
Foundation helps Brooksville students reach education goals

Brooksville organization gives to younger generation

Student letters written by past Brooksville Education Foundation scholarship recipients are featured in the organization’s newsletter.

Photo by Monique Labbe Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Monique Labbe

For the last 18 years, the Brooksville Education Foundation has been helping students reach their post secondary education goals.

Started by Mike McMillen nearly two decades ago, the program was conceived to provide scholarships for Brooksville residents of any age seeking education after high school, leading up to a degree or certificate.

“Since our second year, we have made it a policy to give a scholarship to each person who applied,” said McMillen.

There are currently 29 scholarship recipients in various degree programs around the world, and the program has benefited Brooksville alumni who have since entered the work force.

The average amount awarded per scholarship is $2,500, with an additional $1,000 for individuals who are the first generation in their families to attend a post secondary institution. The scholarships are available for renewal up to six times through a student’s academic career.

“The need is far greater than the amount that we can give them, but any scholarship helps to reduce the amount of debt a student graduates with,” said Dee Powell, who is a member of the Brooksville Education Foundation and the parent of a scholarship recipient.

“If colleges want these kids, we want to help them,” added McMillen.

The funds for the scholarship are drawn from a capital account the foundation has been able to keep since its inception, as well as from annual requests for donations from members of the Brooksville community.

McMillen said that, in research he has done on national student loan debt and graduation rates, the data he has seen show that students who do not have the additional stress of being buried in debt right after graduation have a higher chance of completing their academic pursuits than those who do not.

“It’s a psychological thing for these students,” said McMillen. “One thing I’ve heard from students who have come back to us to tell us about their experience is that being in a new place away from their families is stressful enough, and that the scholarship helped alleviate that added financial stress, even if just a little bit.”

Tonyia Peasley, who recently started participating as a member of the foundation, said that getting the student feedback is an important piece of what the foundation is trying to accomplish.

“We want to be able to give them these scholarships, but we also want to know what they’re doing, through college and after,” she said. “We hear so many things about what these kids are up to, in the school communities and in their communities at home, wherever that ends up being.”

In addition to the scholarship program, the foundation also does two book programs for younger children in Brooksville. Project Read Up is a book program geared toward Brooksville children starting from birth through age 5. Enrollment is open at all times, and children will receive one free book per month, mailed to their homes from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

“The books are fantastic,” said Powell. “And it gets books in the hands of kids right from the beginning. Even if they’re just chewing on them at first, they have that access to them, which is really important.”

The foundation also sponsors annual book gifts for each eighth grade graduate of Brooksville Elementary School. Each year, members of the graduating class submit requests for a specific book they would like, and they are presented with it on the day of their graduation. Past requests have included everything from books on how to create video games to the history of the Hitler regime.

To become involved, visit the Brooksville Education Foundation website for contact information, or call McMillen at 326-9194.

“We’re here as a resource for whoever needs it,” said McMillen. “We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we will certainly try to find them.”