Local foundation awards 17 students with academic awards

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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On Monday, during the Troup County School Board work session, Marion Tate and James Stenson Jr. of the Dernell Renauld Stenson Foundation Scholarship and STEM Achievement Awards presented six seniors with a $1,250 Scholarship and 11 elementary and middle school students with a STEM Achievement Award.

Namesake of the foundation, Dernell Stenson played baseball at LaGrange High School. He would go on to play for the Cincinnati Reds and represent his organization in the Arizona Fall League until his tragic death in November 2003.

“Through the foundation, we have been sponsoring scholarships to high school graduates and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) awards to elementary and middle school students,” Tate said. “All scholarships and awards serve as inspiration to promote continued academic and leadership excellence.”

She said from 2013 to 2022, there have been 30 high school students who have received a total of $50,500 in scholarships and 32 elementary and middle school STEM recipients who have received a total of $2,100 in awards.

“The foundation is proud to have supported 79 students over 10 years, totaling $61,200,” Tate said.

Sheila Prather, president of the foundation, said to be able to give back to local students on this level feels rewarding.

“Our brother, Dernell, was a giver, kind hearted and it has been very insightful and humbling to read the recipient’s essays. Some of their family members knew him and went to school with him so they attest to his character and what he represented,” Prather said.

“To read some of the thoughts that they have about our brother, and continue his legacy — some of which he would have most likely done on his own, if he had the opportunity to share in his gifts. It’s rewarding to encourage these students to continue on a good path and that’s why we continue to make sure we reach out to help somebody.”

Prather said continue her brother’s legacy of kindness and support felts good.

“I think he is looking down on us all the time and is happy that we have not forgotten him and that others are remembering him as well. That’s one of the reasons why the essay is a requirement for the scholarship. We want the students who are recipients to know that there is a focus behind this scholarship, there’s a meaning behind it,” Prather said.

“If they don’t know about him already, it allows them to learn about him and know that the funds that they’re receiving is connected with this kind soul. I know he is thrilled about what we’re doing for him and his namesake.”

Tate said many of the recipients of the scholarship and awards have expressed their gratitude towards the family.

“This year after the program and previously students always tell me that they are honored to have received the scholarship and have done the research to find out who Dernell was and the meaning of the scholarship,” Tate said. “To know we keep his memory alive as well as touch lives is rewarding. I know Dernell would be pleased to know he is still making an impact even after his transition.”