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Future teachers awarded scholarships from TCSS

Two Troup County School System paraprofessionals were selected for the school district’s Grow Your Own Scholarship award this past Thursday.

Tika Russell and Sharonza Jones were selected out of the field of 12 applications, according to Program Specialist Jim McMickin. The scholarship acts as a reimbursement grant, so when the two students finish their education, the district will reimburse them for their tuition.

McMickin said Russell is currently a paraprofessional at Ethel Kight Elementary School and is also the director of the Ace Program, which is an after-class enrichment program. Russell graduated from LaGrange High School and is attending Brenau University in Norcross. McMickin said she is slated to graduate in May 2021 with a teaching degree, and she has been with the school system since 2015.

Jones is a pre-K paraprofessional at Long Cane Elementary School, and she is the Greenpower coach at the school.

“She, too, shows the leadership potential that we look for in this process,” McMickin said.

He said she’s been with the school system since 2015 and will finish her degree at LaGrange College in the summer.

“We look forward to hiring her in the fall,” he said.

McMickin said each applicant had to get four recommendations — one from a former supervisor, two peers and a community member. The candidates also have to write essays on why they wanted to be a teacher and an event about education and how it impacted their life.

McMickin said the selection committee went through the 12 applications to narrow it down to six. He said the committee brought those candidates in for an interview, similar to how a teacher would interview with the school system.

“Two people stood out,” he said. “We are very proud of them and happy to present them to the board.”

Chief Human Resources Officer Chip Medders said the Grow Your Own Scholarship program was created to keep talent from the area in the school system.

He said when looking at national data, 50 percent of teachers leave the profession in the first five years, and 20 percent of principals leave the profession every year.

“Growing your own teachers and growing your own administrators is very, very important,” Medders said. “I think it is a vital step in the process we are going through right now.”