Scholarship honors Julius Bennett, creates pathways to mentoring

Published 7:02 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Eighth-grade students at Hayneville Middle School and Lowndes Middle School received a holiday treat on Dec. 15 when Julius Bennett Hope Scholarship recipients delivered gift-filled stockings and talked with students about college and careers.

“Students asked me what age I was when I discovered what I wanted to do, where I was going to school, and what I was majoring in,” said Chasity Talley, who received the scholarship in 2021. “I think [talking with eight-graders] sparks interest to get them thinking about their future. I told them I knew what I wanted to do ever since second grade but when I got to school, it was not what I thought. [I told them] there is absolutely nothing wrong with changing their mind.”

Shernovius Bennett, who attended Hayneville Middle School, organized the Julius Bennett Hope Scholarship in 2020 to help young adults reach their goal of becoming a college graduate.

The initiative honors Bennett’s grandfather, Julius Bennett, who was the first Black deputy of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

“The scholarship provides an opportunity to honor my grandfather’s legacy,” Bennett said. “This is something that lives beyond us so that what he has done is never forgotten.

“But more importantly, this helps our community with education and exposure to change the lives of our students.”

All scholarship recipients must be accepted into a college or university with some idea of what career they plan to pursue, Bennett said.

The program is designed not just to benefit students financially, but also for Bennett and other volunteer mentors to help and guide students along their path to success and to engage them in mentoring those who follow in their footsteps.

“Scholarship recipients are charged with returning to Lowndes County, to help students and mentor 12th graders who are transitioning to college,” said Bennett’s mother and Co-Director Lisa McDay. “Students interact with one another and talk about challenges they face in college. We bring them together with new scholarship recipients, too, so they are mentoring each other.”

Christin Watson received the scholarship in 2021 and now attends Alabama A&M University pursuing a degree in communications media. Watson said having a mentor has helped her navigate choices impacting her career and future.

“I feel as though having a mentor has been helping me understand my place in the industry,” Watson said. “Once I gained an understanding of who I am as a person, it helped me prepare to make my own decisions and get ready to be part of something a lot bigger than myself, something I probably wouldn’t have expected of myself.”

The opportunity has created a community, Talley explained, where students can seek advice and share their experiences.

“I’m able to talk to Mr. Bennett if I have any issues,” Talley said. “I can reach out to [Bennett and McDay], letting them know what grades I have or talk through changing my major. We (students) talk to each other and see that we aren’t alone in the college experience.”

McDay said organizers rely on community partners to make the program successful — partners like Dentist Practitioner Jacob Griffin who donated toothpaste and toothbrushes for the middle school Christmas stockings.

Organizers also rely on generous donors who contribute tax deductible funds for the scholarship.

To donate towards the scholarship fund, mail a check or money order to the Julius Bennett Hope Scholarship at 4023 Mason Road, Hope Hull, Alabama 36043 or send payment through PayPal at paypal.me/JBScholars?locale.x=en_US.

Seniors interested in applying for a scholarship should speak with their counselors at Central High School in Hayneville or The Calhoun School each academic year. Applications are available each academic year in January and due back to the school counselors in May.

For more information email lisamcday@yahoo.com or shernoviusb@yahoo.com and include the subject line Scholarship.