The Sampson High School Alumni Association gives $15,000 annually in scholarships to local students, helping hundreds pay for college over the years. Through the establishment of a $1 million endowment, members are hoping to increase that outreach exponentially.
SHSAA has awarded more than $350,000 in college scholarship funding to students graduating from Clinton City Schools and Sampson County Schools since the association was established in 1973, assisting more than 200 students realize their dreams of a college education.
Among its alumni, Sampson High School boasts accomplished educators, lawyers, doctors, medical professionals, business executives, politicians, radio and television personalities and others who are pillars in their communities — here and beyond North Carolina’s borders. Those alumni have paid it forward through the decades, and there has been no bigger venture than the Sampson High School Alumni Association Scholarship Endowment.
It will be the bridge that allows the group’s civic mission as a college education scholarship resource to exist in perpetuity, generating scholarship funding for current and future generations of Clinton and Sampson residents, members stated.
“The key behind this whole endowment campaign is it is a community-based funding project,” said Anthony McPhail, one of the leaders of the SHSAA’s endowment campaign.
SHSAA members are hoping to make an announcement that the $1 million goal has been attained during the annual reunion in August 2018. If the endowment can be established and see the positive returns anticipated, SHSAA will be able to award between $130,000 and $170,000 worth of scholarships at the reunion next year.
“That’s the potential and the beauty of this endowment,” McPhail attested. “And obviously it goes in perpetuity. As long as there’s life in Clinton, this endowment will be able to provide scholarship funding for kids wanting to go to college in Clinton.”
Back in October, SHSAA members mailed information to 5,000 Clinton citizens and businesses emphasizing the impact the endowment can make for the foreseeable future.
“Please help us to ensure that SHSAA’s legacy is eternal and that deserving students can emerge equipped with the education they need to change the world,” that widely-circulated letter read in part. “With your help, we will not only reach, but exceed this goal. Some bright, young minds are depending on us to do so.”
With the message disseminated, McPhail said, now comes the critical part of gathering donations to bring the endowment to fruition.
First Citizens Bank of Clinton, represented by executive vice president Bill Scott, is the first to support the endowment, which it did by way of a recent $2,500 donation.
“That hopefully will kick off our campaign to get (support) from all the Clinton businesses, in particular, to start responding to our request,” said McPhail, who lauded Scott and First Citizens for its generous donation. In addition to the $2,500 pledge, First Citizens Bank and Scott also said that SHSAA Planning Committee members would be allowed to utilize the bank’s boardroom should it be needed.
“We’re doing a very small part for the kids,” Scott remarked. “This endowment is important for the future of our children and we’re more than happy to give toward this cause.”
Capital segment teams of SHSAA volunteers have been formed toward the goal of reaching out to the community, breaking Clinton into eight segments such as banking, medical, legal, education, retail and others, targeting people and businesses within those segments on a more focused basis.
“We think the great majority of our donations for the endowment are going to come from one-on-one interactions,” said McPhail, who heads up the banking segment.
Dr. Jesse F. Williams, the founder of the SHSAA and former medical director for the Cumberland County Health Department, chairs the medical segment, which is reaching out to doctors, pharmacies, the hospital and similar medical-related facilities. Dr. Linda Brunson and Hazel Colwell are heading up the education segment, Vic Fryar is handling retail and there are many others.
McPhail conceded a bit of a sluggish start in receiving donations, but the coming year will see association members hard at work.
“We gave ourselves two years to do this,” McPhail stated. “We knew that we needed to get our message out first. We feel real good about the message we delivered with our mailing in October. Everybody pretty much knows what we’re doing now. It’s just about following up on it to now to make it reality.”
The group will be vetting financial institutions to manage the endowment, with hopes to award the first scholarships out of the endowment fund in 2019. For now, however, the focus is on attaining the $1 million benchmark.
“We’re going to have our members on the ground canvassing with a scorched-earth campaign over the next 14 months,” said McPhail, who noted two particular donors —he did not name them — who are capable of writing checks for $1 million right now. Commitments from either, or both, of them would get the endowment effort “really off and running with making this thing become reality,” he said.
Through the years, the alumni association has made young students its primary focus, with the goal of supporting, motivating and cultivating positive and productive members of society.
Last year, with the help of the SHSAA, 56 eight-grade students toured the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and participated in the university’s First Look Program. Launched in 2008, the First Look Program introduces middle school students to the concept of college — academics, the arts, athletics, student life, campus living and global education — as a pathway to a career.
The program was designed to create a lasting and meaningful experience of college and to inspire kids to set their goals on a college degree, which is SHSAA’s objective as well. Association members have regularly “filled the bus” with school supplies, distributing hundreds upon hundreds of backpacks stuffed with school supplies for area students, encouraging them along the way.
Even if the $1 million goal is not reached, the Sampson High School Alumni Association Scholarship Endowment will make an impact, McPhail and others asserted.
“We feel very positive that we will get it done,” said McPhail, “but even if we fall flat on our face, right now we average about $15,000 worth of scholarships each year that we give to Clinton students. Even if we’re only able to create a half-million dollar endowment, at an average of about 9 percent return on endowments over the last 10 years, you’re still talking about $45,000 to $50,000 in scholarships we can give away every year.”
“Regardless of where we end up, we’re going to be able to tremendously increase the amount of scholarships we currently give to Clinton people,” McPhail concluded.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.