When Steven Tyree, an outstanding athlete and scholar who attended a small high school in Fayette, first went to the University of South Alabama, he had a hard time adjusting to a class with 300 students when his entire high school totaled 280 students. He turned to his mentors to stay grounded.

“They gave me advice about what to expect in the classroom and even tips on where to sit during classroom lectures. I was also assigned my own personal mentor that I could call at any time day or night and just talk,” says Tyree.

Polished Scholars!

He also struggled with choosing a major. Halfway through his first semester, he decided to reconsider pre-med. When McCauley asked him if he’d thought of engineering, Tyree says, “He didn’t know it but he had read my mind and we discussed it — the next day I changed my major to mechanical engineering and it has been the best decision I have made.”
The foundation also has learned from the past scholars’ experiences and input. Forty-one guidelines, all based on the students’ particular learning experiences, have been established. One guideline states that freshman aren’t allowed to join fraternities or sororities — it’s too expensive and too distracting.The past decade the foundation has evolved and adapted to meet the students’ wide range of needs by implementing a study abroad program assistance network and providing professional seminars, full-time mentors, dorm packs and adequate room and board during the holidays.

According to a 2009 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 35 percent of employers’ full-time, entry-level college hires originated from their internship programs. In light of this, the foundation has encouraged students like Donald Morgan, a student at Alabama A&M pursuing a degree in urban planning, to work as an intern. He recently accepted an internship with the city of Huntsville’s Planning Division. He will perform demographic analyses and research design standards for the city’s 2035 long range plan.

Once students finish the program, says Dudley, they’ve transformed into polished, confident individuals who often matriculate to graduate school.

And they reach that point without college debt. Cynthia Wozow, a Smith scholar alumna and a first-year medical resident, said she is especially grateful that she could begin her medical studies  debt free and concentrate on achieving her dream.

A true trailblazer, this great-granddaughter of Alabama governor B.B. Comer, who invented a special grass for horses, drove a 1976 Cadillac she named Gigi (Giant Green Gas-Guzzling Goddess), sailed the Chesapeake Bay on her 35-foot sailboat, planned a New Orleans-style party at the Birmingham Country Club on the occasion of her death, and requested her ashes be cast into the Chesapeake Bay, has left her mark on the future of Alabama.

This year, 62 Smith Scholars are enrolled in higher education. Since its inception, the foundation has helped more than 130 scholars.

— Lanier Isom- PRView

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