When the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise scholarship program was launched in 2014, it was one of the earliest Promise programs in the nation and the first such initiative in Texas.
On Thursday, an assembly was held to announce the 11th group of Rusk High School seniors who are eligible to join Tyler Junior College’s freshman class of 2024.
A partnership between TJC, the TJC Foundation, Rusk ISD, Citizens 1st Bank and The Perkins Family Foundation, the Rusk Promise covers up to $4,000 per year for two years at TJC. In addition to graduating in the top half of their class with a minimum 2.5 GPA, qualifying students must also reside in Rusk ISD and must have attended Rusk High School for grades 11 and 12.
More than 390 RHS graduates have attended TJC through the Rusk Promise program since its inception.
This year’s 58 eligible Rusk Promise scholars are: Julian Alonzo Ebanez, Caison Arnwine, Ace Blankinship, Sarah Boudreaux, Timothy Bouford, Stevie Brummett, Nicole Burkhalter, Matthew Bush, Riley Caveness, Courtney Chandler, Logan Cruseturner, Madison Downs, Victoria Evans, Kevlynn Ford, Nataly Galan, Juancarlos Garza, Clay Geisler, Micah Givens, Kaitlyn Hardy, Monica Hernandez, Joci Hill, Jaylenne Hill, Audrey Hill, Jacey Johnston, Jonah Johnston, Corbin Jones, Sophie Jones, Kamryn Kellis, Gracie Knight, Ashlyn Long, Francisco Martinez, Azalia Mendoza, Madai Mendoza, Maria Mora, Mariana Morin, Harmony Morris, Jada Nelson, Kennzie Norton, Emily Parker, Alex Patterson, Gracie Ratcliff, Anthony Rojo, Gregory Dalton-Lee Roland, Katie Ross, Sinai Santiago Hernandez, Jayla Session, Connor Sessions, Katelynn Simmons, Janiece Swindell, Carolina Tarver, Maci Taylor, Shelly Taylor, Gracie Threadgill, Mason Trowbridge, Landon Walley, Lanee Weaver, Lilee Weaver and Kelsey Woodard.
“On behalf of TJC, I want to congratulate you on your accomplishments,” Mitch Andrews, TJC vice president for institutional advancement, said to the students. “Your achievements at Rusk High School guarantee that you can benefit from the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise program. Many years ago, I was sitting where you are and had the same opportunities to benefit from college — but the opportunity I didn’t have then was the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise program, which provides incredible scholarships as well as dedicated staff to help you navigate your TJC experience.”
Megan Cumbee Burns, TJC’s senior manager of scholarships and the Rusk Promise, is also a 2006 Rusk High School graduate. During their senior year in high school, Burns keeps in contact with Promise scholars and holds workshops and meetings especially for them and their parents, to ease the students’ transition from high school to TJC. When the students enroll at TJC, she and her team keep in regular contact with the Rusk Promise scholars through monthly meetings, seminars and answering any questions that arise.
Jim Perkins (left) announces a scholarship created in honor of Charles Hassell (right), of Citizens 1st Bank, who was instrumental in helping to establish the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise program.
Speaking on behalf of Citizens 1st Bank and The Perking Family Foundation, Margaret Perkins addressed the students, “This is the 11th year of the Rusk Promise program, which means many of you were in the first grade when the program began. While you were working very hard in primary, middle and high school, other opportunities were being created that you will benefit from that will enable you to continue your education beyond TJC, should you choose to do so.
“Because of a partnership that has been created between TJC, Rusk ISD, Citizens 1st Bank and The University of Texas at Tyler, a new Promise Transfer Scholarship will enable you to continue for two more years at UT Tyler. This is an unprecedented opportunity being presented to you, and it will pave the way for you to continue your education without taking out student loans. It will remove the roadblocks many students have had by having to work many hours away from their studies. You will be able to focus on your studies and pursue your dreams. This is a remarkable opportunity that we are proud to present to you.”
Following Margaret Perkins’ remarks, her husband Jim Perkins took the stage for a surprise announcement.
“Today, we are announcing a new scholarship in honor of our distinguished Rusk, Texas, citizen and Rusk High School graduate, Charles Hassell,” Perkins said.
Hassell is a graduate of Rusk High School, Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas. After graduating from UT, he and his wife, Leslie, returned to Rusk, where he has held a career of civic leadership in the community and has been an officer at Citizens Bank for 46 years.
“Charles was instrumental in helping us establish and maintain the Rusk Citizens Promise program,” Perkins said. “Charles, you helped us do it and you help us keep it rolling; and we’re so proud to announce this scholarship in your name.”
Following the program, a tribute wall was unveiled in the Rusk High School College & Career Center, featuring a collage of photos of past Rusk Promise graduates and those who helped create the program.
A tribute wall was unveiled in the Rusk High School College & Career Center, featuring a collage of photos of past Rusk Promise graduates and those who helped create the program. From left, Mitch Andrews, TJC vice president for institutional advancement; Laura Perkins, Jim Perkins and Margaret Perkins, Citizens 1st Bank and the Perkins Family Foundation; and Dr. Grey Burton, Rusk ISD superintendent.
“The new tribute wall, located in the hallway leading to the Citizens 1st Bank College Career Center, honors a 10-year partnership that has ensured the success of the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise Program,” Andrews said. “It also features the program’s impact through images of past student participants and their families, as well as student testimonials. The wall includes a photograph of current seniors who, through their accomplishments at Rusk High School, will benefit from the Rusk Promise while attending TJC.
“We hope the wall will inspire all Rusk students to achieve in high school, as there is pathway for them to a college education through the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise.”
For more information on the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise, go to TJC.edu/RuskPromise.