The South Georgia State College Foundation Gala, “An Evening of Opportunity”, took place Tuesday, May 23rd, at SGSC’s Engram Hall, featuring a dinner and awards program. The event raised funds to support the SGSC Foundation’s student scholarships to help transform and enhance the lives of our student population.
The Gala was attended by nearly 120 community supporters, SGSC faculty and staff, and scholarship recipients who came together to support this cause that will provide educational opportunities for those who may not be able to otherwise afford to attend college. Dinner music was provided by Ms. Alison Adcock, vocalist; Miss Anna Grace Grantham, violinist; and Ms. Tania Myers, pianist. The night included a silent auction of items donated by community partners with proceeds benefiting the scholarship fund.
The welcome was given by Mr. Shane Shook, SGSC Foundation President, followed by an invocation by Dr. Jim Cottingham, SGSC Foundation Trustee. Dr. Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, president of South Georgia State College, shared updates from the College and stated the reasons for the request of supporting needs-based scholarships. She said, “Due to declines in state funding, paying for college is now a bigger struggle for many students and their families, especially those at the lowest income levels. Over 60% of our students receive federal assistance. Furthermore, many then cannot afford books or cover the costs to care for their family or travel to and from class.” She continued by saying, “Need-based funding is a key priority with the University System of Georgia and at SGSC. We are blessed to have the support from the SGSC Foundation and generous individuals and businesses like those in attendance. This past year we were able to award 122 scholarships totaling $87,714 because of your generous support.” Mr. Shook returned to the podium to recognize three scholarship recipients who were guests of the Foundation and shared their stories of success. Miss Erika Franco was a 2015 graduate of Coffee High. She received the Hanna Family Scholarship and recently graduated from SGSC with an associate’s degree. She will continue her education at SGSC in the bachelors of nursing program this fall. Mr. Charles (Ky) Meeks is an 2015 honor graduate of Coffee High and a recent graduate of SGSC with an associates of science degree. He plans to attend the University of Georgia this fall and pursue a degree in animal and health care science and become a veterinarian. Miss Danielle Sumner is a 2015 honor graduate from Citizens Christian Academy. Danielle received the Buck Morris scholarship and graduated with her associate’s degree in nursing. She will be interning at CRMC and plans to obtain a BSN degree at SGSC. Mr. Shook pointed out that their education from SGSC has created many opportunities for them and being the recipients of foundation scholarships were important to their success.
For the culminating highlight of the Gala, the SGSC Foundation announced the recipients of its 2017 Alumni of the Year awards. Mr. Brian McNeill, SGSC Foundation Past President, presented the awards to Mr. Luke Christian in the area of business; Mr. Oscar Street in the area of education, and Ms. Sherry Thomas in the area of healthcare. As Mr. McNeill pointed out, “Each of the individuals being recognized has been a staunch supporter of the College and has given their time and talents to help serve our students and our overall mission.”
Mr. Luke Christian is a 1998 alumnus who continued and completed his education at the University of Georgia. He came back to his hometown of Douglas to open his first restaurant, Ranchero’s, in 2007. He opened locations in Waycross and Tifton and added Fireside Pizza in 2012 in downtown Douglas. He expanded his reach by renaming Ranchero’s to Surchero’s and began the Surchero’s Franchising Corporation, opening the first franchised Surchero’s in 2017. He has been an active member of the Chamber and received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2010. He has served on the SGSC Foundation Board and been a key supporter of our athletic teams in addition to ongoing support for our student activities.
Mr. Oscar Street graduated from South Georgia College in 1967. He then completed his education with a bachelor’s degree from Fort Valley State and his master’s and specialist degrees from Valdosta State University. Mr. Street was hired in 1970 as a math and science teacher at Coffee Junior High. He then transferred to Coffee High where he served as a math teacher and assistant coach in football and basketball. In 1973, he was named the assistant principal at Broxton High School and later served as principal at Westside Elementary and Coffee Middle. He retired as principal of West Coffee Middle School in June 2001 after serving 31 years as an educator and administrator in the Coffee County school system. He loves his community and held a position as city commissioner from 1979 – 1985. He has served on the boards of Ameris Bank and Coffee Regional Medical Center and been a long-time active member of the Douglas Rotary Club. Mr. Street has been a constant advocate for our College and education in Douglas and Coffee County.
Ms. Sherry Thomas has spent a career helping serve and caring for others. Ms. Thomas is a 1973 alumnus and graduated with her associate’s degree in nursing. She now holds a master’s degree in science in nursing. She began her nursing career in Austell, where she worked in the nursery at Cobb General Hospital. In 1975, she moved back to Douglas and began working as a nursery supervisor at Coffee Regional Medical Center. She has held positions of Director of Quality Management, Vice President of Support Services, Vice President of Professional Services, and currently serves in the role of Executive Vice President of Patient Care Services/Chief Nursing Executive since 2002. Her commitment and leadership have brought great successes to Coffee Regional Medical Center including the building of a new medical center in 1998 and being named a 2016 Top Small Hospital in Georgia by Georgia Trend magazine in 2016. Other distinguished awards for the hospital include Georgia Rural Hospital of the Year, Top Key Performer by Joint Commission, Hospital of the Year Award by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, Best in Value by Data Advantage and GHA, and Workforce Leadership Award. Through her role and CRMC’s support, SGSC has expanded its academic offering in nursing to include a bachelor’s degree and has partnered with CRMC to allow clinical training for students and opportunities for careers once graduating from SGSC.
In addition to members of the SGSC Foundation Trustees, other notable guests included donors and supporters. The SGSC Foundation would like to offer sincere thanks to our key sponsors for the event - ABL Educational Enterprise Incorporated, presenting sponsor; Ameris Bank, First National Bank of Coffee County (FNBCC), and Lyon Management Company, platinum sponsors. Also, we are appreciative of our other table sponsors as well as businesses who donated silent auction prizes.
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