COVINGTON, Ga. — The future looks bright — and debt-free — for a student at Eastside High School and the Newton College & Career Academy STEM Institute.
Abigail Sugg, a senior, was chosen the sole winner of the Bessie Willingham Tift Scholarship from Mercer University out of 198 applicants.
The Scholarship is a full ride award that pays for both tuition and room and board — equating to approximately $250,000 over the course of four years, according to Christina Huseman, coordinator of the Tift Program at Mercer University.
Sugg said, “I’m so happy to receive this honor. Mercer University has been a goal for me since eighth grade.
“It has always been my No. 1 college that I wanted to attend. It has always been my end goal.”
She explained that she fell in love with the school after a stroll on the campus.
“Walking on that campus I always felt like it could be a home and I liked the fact that it was smaller and that they really value education there,” Sugg said.
She added that her plans are to double major in graphic design and business at the university.
In addition to her free ride, Sugg will also hold several college credits when she arrives on campus because she participated in dual enrollment since junior year and also has earned Advanced Placement course credits.
Eastside High School Principal Jeff Cher said, “Abigail is an outstanding student and has truly excelled at Eastside, the STEM Institute, and in Dual Enrollment.”
“She is a remarkable young lady and so deserving of this scholarship. We say that Eastside graduates excellence and she definitely exemplifies that.”
Cher also noted how the scholarship presentation was extra special as Huseman, who awarded the scholarship to Sugg, is also a graduate of Eastside High School.
“It’s very exciting to be back to present this scholarship to an Eastside High School student,” Huseman said.
She said Mercer University bought Tift College in 1986 and — as part of the merger — they created the Tift Legacy and the Tift Scholars program as a way to continue that legacy.
“Every year admissions presents the Tift program with a list of scholars that meet certain academic criteria,” Huseman said. “Of those, they are interviewed by Tift alum, Tift Scholar alum, and some are interviewed based on a board recommendation.”
Sugg entered the scholarship program through a board recommendation from Tift Scholar alumna Julia Chatfield, a 2006 Mercer University graduate and current science teacher at Eastside High School.
“We always want someone who not just wants to go to Mercer but whose passion is to go to Mercer,” explained Chatfield. “We also look for students who are strong academic students and students who are very well-rounded who will be involved in the Mercer community.
“Abigail meets all of those requirements and I believe she hits all of those marks. She will be an outstanding representative of what Tift means. As a result of this scholarship, she will be one of the faces of the Tift program for the next four years.”
Sugg said, “I am so very thankful to be blessed with this opportunity because it is an expensive school to attend.
She admitted to being extremely nervous during the interview process.
“I didn’t know at the time that the scholarship covered everything, including room and board. This is just so surreal. When I learned I got the scholarship I was in total shock and just so excited to tell my parents. It’s just a fantastic opportunity.”
During her high school career, Sugg has immersed herself not just in academics but also numerous organizations including the FBLA, TSA, the swim team, color guard, and concert band.
She’s looking forward to being involved in the Mercer University community as well when she reports in the fall.
Chad Walker, principal of the Newton College & Career Academy, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for Abigail.”
“We are so proud of her for this outstanding accomplishment and wish her the very best at Mercer University.”
An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect full name of the scholarship.