For more than 60 years Ruby R. Sullivan has been helping students succeed in and out of the classroom. Now, at the age of 98, Sullivan is continuing to help students succeed.
The Camilla, Ga. native, who attended Georgia State Womans College (now Valdosta State University) from 1930 to 1932, has made a substantial gift to endow a scholarship for education majors at Valdosta State University.
During a special ceremony, the university officially announced the establishment of the Ruby and John Sullivan Education Scholarship within the Dewar College of Education. The scholarship is named for Sullivan and her late son, John Sullivan, a 1972 business graduate of Valdosta State.
â€œI had no appointment. I walked into the bank and asked to see the president of the bank,â€ she said. â€œI was a stranger to him, and he was a stranger to me. I asked for a loan to go to college, and without hesitation he said to me, â€˜You go to college, and you write a check on this bank when you need to pay the bill,â€™ and that is what I did.â€
In 1930, Sullivan arrived at Georgia State Womans College with the goal of becoming a teacher. Two years later, at the young age of 18, she began teaching fourth graders in Cotton, Ga., earning a salary of $49 per month.
Sullivan said that despite many tragedies in her life, including the death of her husband in 1956, she found joy in teaching and had many wonderful experiences.
Sullivan expressed her concerns for the cost of a college education today and told the students in the audience that their parents are trying to raise a family, pay bills, and send them to college.
â€œMy son John was a strong believer in education. He was involved in politics and worked on two presidential for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980,â€ Sullivan said with pride. â€œJohn always kept up with current events. He was a true believer in equal educational opportunities.â€
Sullivan said the scholarship will accomplish two major goals. The first is to help qualified students from Georgiaâ€™s rural communities attend Valdosta State University and graduate with teaching degrees. The second is to help with a stipend if they return to a high-need Georgia community and teach.
â€œThis can start a cycle that will have a lasting and positive impact on many young people for generations to come,â€ Sullivan said. â€œThis scholarship honors my son John, who I mentioned was a strong believer in educational opportunities. It is simply the right thing to do in his memory to carry out his wishes in his absence.â€
Students Receive the Ruby and John Sullivan Education Scholarship
By: Jessica R. Pope
Vontessa A. Kendall
The daughter of Melvin Kendall and Kimberly Wimberly, Vontessa A. Kendall, 21, of Newton, Ga., comes from a family of teachers, including her mother and a couple of her aunts.
â€œI guess you could say I have the teaching gene,â€ said the inaugural recipient of the Ruby and John Sullivan Education Scholarship. â€œTeaching is my passion.â€
Kendall is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Educationâ€™s Middle Grades Education program, with a primary concentration in math and secondary concentration in language arts. She anticipates graduating in December 2013 and then heading straight to graduate school to earn a Master of Education degree.
â€œEventually, I plan to earn my doctorate and work in administration,â€ said Kendall, who is a member of VSUâ€™s Black Student League and the Golden Key National Honor Society. She works part time at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authorityâ€™s After-School Program at Sallas Mahone Elementary School.
Regarding her future as a teacher, Kendall said that she plans to be open to any and all opportunities that become available to her, although she dreams of working â€œup northâ€ someday.
â€œ[This scholarship] is a blessing,â€ said the 2009 Monroe Comprehensive High School graduate.
Mariah N. Newberry
Before she was awarded the first Ruby and John Sullivan Education Scholarship, Mariah N. Dewberry, 20, could not afford to purchase the textbooks required by her instructors. Her parents, Lynwood and Antoinette Dewberry, of Camilla, Ga., were doing their best to pay the balance left each semester after financial aid was applied to her tuition, fees, and housing costs.
â€œI just thank God for this scholarship so much,â€ said the 2009 Mitchell County High School graduate. â€œI told Ms. Sullivan that she helped me fulfill my dream. I did not know that my dad, whoâ€™s been on dialysis, had been taking his name off the kidney transplant list to make sure there was enough money to pay for my school. I felt so spectacular when I found out that I had gotten the scholarship. I felt truly blessed. Getting this scholarship just adds more proof I should be a teacher because God blessed me with this scholarship to help me succeed with my dream.â€
Dewberry plans to graduate in May 2013 from Valdosta State Universityâ€™s James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education with a Bachelor of Science in Education, specifically Early Childhood Education. She recently finished a practicum experience working with third graders at Moulton-Branch Elementary School.
â€œI loved it,â€ she said. â€œAt first, I did not think I was going to like third grade …. Itâ€™s a challenge when you have very smart kids and slower kids in the same classroom. You have to figure out how to teach them all and get them to work together as a team.â€
Dewberry hopes to eventually earn a doctorate and pursue her passion for reading education, possibly at Columbia University in New York. She recalled being the only kid in her kindergarten class who could not read and how a cousin took the time to read to her and changed her life forever.
â€œOnce I learned to read, I never stopped,â€ she said. â€œI love it. Itâ€™s like a movie in my head.â€
Dewberry is a member of Blazer Pride and Sigma Alpha Pi (National Society of Leadership and Success) and a volunteer in the Ruby R. Sullivan Literacy Centerâ€™s Blazing Through Books and Dear Blazer Buddy programs.
â€œIâ€™ve always been a nurturer,â€ said the 2008 Telfair County High School graduate. â€œI am the oldest of three children; I have two younger brothers who are now 20 years old and 16 years old, and I have always tried to take care of them. Iâ€™ve tried to think of me doing something else and just cannot picture it.â€
Cason plans to graduate from Valdosta State Universityâ€™s James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education with a Bachelor of Science in Education in May 2013. She is currently a senior in the Middle Grades Education program with a primary concentration in social studies and a secondary concentration in science.
â€œIn my dream world, I would be teaching history all day long,â€ she said.
Before becoming one of three inaugural recipients of the Ruby and John Sullivan Education Scholarship, Cason had to borrow student loans each semester to cover the cost of her education not covered by the Georgia HOPE Scholarship Program.
â€œI was up to $10,000 in loans, maybe more, probably more,â€ said the 22-year-old daughter of Brian and Tammy Cason. â€œ[The scholarship] is a huge financial blessing. When I learned that I got the scholarship, I cried.â€
Cason plans to devote herself entirely to teaching for at least a year before tackling a masterâ€™s degree. She looks forward to student teaching in the spring.
â€œIâ€™m really excited about that and also nervous a little bit,â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t want to do anything to mess up their little minds.â€
Asked how she will handle those times when she does not know the answer, Cason said with a smile, â€œIâ€™ll just tell my students, â€˜Letâ€™s find the answer together.â€™â€