HAMLET — Duke and Melissa Smith, organizers of the Seaboard Festival 5K, met with Richmond Community College officials Tuesday at the Cole Auditorium to sign a contract to mark the beginning of a new scholarship.
Melissa Smith, admin assistant at the Cole and assistant race director for the run, said the first scholarship will be awarded for the 2017-2018 school year.
“This contract established the Seaboard Festival 5K Scholarship Fund,” she said. “A portion of the proceeds from this year’s 5K will be awarded to a student for the next academic year.”
“Right now, we’ve set it up to be awarded to one student — but if there are more funds in the future, we will have more scholarships in the same dollar amount,” Duke Smith added.
“Our first one will be $1,000,” Melissa Smith said. “And that would be $500 for the fall semester of 2017 and $500 for spring semester of 2018.”
Duke Smith said with the theme of this year’s 5K including a school supply drive, establishing a scholarship seemed appropriate.
“Going forward, we feel education is the right direction for the race,” he said. “The Seaboard Festival committee has always just let us choose, after the 5K, where we wanted to donate our proceeds. We just decided on our own which charities to sponsor. A scholarship is a good way to use the money.”
Melissa Smith said the scholarship will benefit residents of Richmond County exclusively.
“We want to see it support local education,” she said. “To qualify for the scholarship, the applicant must be Richmond County resident, maintain a 3.0 grade point average, and be a full-time student.”
She said all county residents are eligible to apply for the scholarship, whether they are recent high school graduates or older students who want to go back to school.
“In Richmond County there’s not a lot of money,” she said. “There’s a lot of middle class and under who can’t afford to get an education.”
Melissa Smith said she and Duke Smith mentioned the idea to the 5K’s presenting sponsor, Sandhills Regional Medical Center and said they agreed with the idea, adding that RCC is also enthusiastic about it.
“They are so excited,” she said. “Dr. McInnis is just going on and on about how excited he is. I feel it’s going to grow bigger than just the one scholarship.”
“The Richmond Community College Foundation appreciates the generous work of Duke and Melissa Smith for their development of the Seaboard Festival 5K Scholarship,” said Dr. Hal Shuler, Associate Vice President of Development. “We look forward to being able to offer this scholarship in fall 2017 that will help our students offset the cost of college and pursue their educational and career goals.”
RCC President Dr. Dale McInnis said he hopes the scholarship will inspire others to follow the example of its founders.
“On behalf of the college and our board of trustees, I want to thank the organizers of the Seaboard Festival 5K who used this annual event as an opportunity to support higher education within our community,” McInnis said. “We encourage other groups to look into the many ways our foundation has for giving and helping our students who are bettering their lives through a college education.”
Melissa Smith said making a donation to the scholarship fund is easy and can be done on the same web page participants in the 5K use to register for the event.
“There’s a button to sign up, and (Duke) also put one people can click to donate,” she said.
“It’s not restricted to participants in the race,” Duke Smith said. “Anyone can contribute, and who knows, if we get enough donations, we might be able to grant more than one scholarship next year.”
To make a donation, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/Donate/NC/Hamlet/SeaboardFestival5K or send email to Duke Smith at email@example.com.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.