Paying It Forward 5

The Fort Worth Nissan 
Scholarship helps a future teacher 
realize her dreams of college.

For too many young people, college appears as an unattainable dream. Tuition costs, already high, have continually risen. Before you blame the market, consider this: the cost of tuition has rapidly outpaced inflation, almost to the point of absurdity. Annual tuition at Harvard, for example, currently sits at around $45,000. This represents an increase of 17x the amount in 1971. If tuition had simply tracked inflation over that time period, it today would stand at just $15,189 at the nation’s most prestigious school.

This situation applies for all schools, not just the Ivy League. In 2016, the average cost of annual attendance at a four-year, private and non-profit university stood at $31,231. If measured against inflation and tracked across the same time period as the Harvard example, tuition should come in at $9,139 per year.

Thankfully, whereas those in charge at universities see fit to continually raise tuition, others have stepped in to fill something of the gap. One of those noble souls appears in the person of Mark Mefford of Fort Worth Nissan. Recently, Mr. Mefford contacted the editor of this magazine, Christie Thomas, with an idea to give back to the community.

“Mark asked me to lunch because he needed help with an idea,” says Christie. “He wanted to give back to the community and wanted suggestions. I told him an idea that my husband and I had about doing a scholarship, and Mark loved it.”

Mr. Mefford saw great appeal in the idea to make a difference in a kid’s education. Without help, untold numbers of local students will simply forego the great opportunities for improved employment and personal betterment that college offers. The scholarship brainstormed with Christie and offered through Mr. Mefford’s Fort Worth Nissan would help offset this burden, not just for one, but for two industrious students.

“My original thought was for a $2500 scholarship,” says Christie. “Mark stepped up and wanted to do $7500 between two students, with $5000 going to first and $2500 to second.”

To make it happen, Christie contacted the office of Dr. Anita Perry at Fort Worth ISD. Coral Simpkins, administrative associate in the Academic Advisement Department, became the point person for this endeavor.

“Coral orchestrated the whole plan,” says Christie. “She sent me ideas on how the students could compete, and we settled on the essay. It was Coral who provided topics. What could be more appropriate than an essay on the dangers of distracted driving?”

Once the wheels began to turn, enthusiasm for this scholarship resonated across every level, and more than two dozen students finally submitted essays. Eventually, the varied and impressive field yielded a clear winner, Alexa Villa, and a runner-up, Kishaun Jackson. Alexa, the unanimous choice for first amongst the contest’s four judges, drew from a powerful well of personal experience in the composition of her essay.

“When I saw the prompt about how I speak to my community about distracted driving, I knew exactly what I wanted to say,” says Alexa. “I was involved in a car accident about two years ago, and know precisely how to talk to people about safe driving. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through in my accident.”

Alexa’s accident, which occurred in 2015, was a serious affair that left her with a broken leg and fractured pelvis. She remained in the hospital for two weeks, and used crutches for an additional 10. Fully recovered, she returned to cheerleading at her high school, Western Hills, and now looks forward to a particularly rewarding career: teaching.

“This fall, I plan to attend Tarleton State,” says Alexa. “I’m majoring in math so that I can be a high school teacher. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.”

As for the assistance granted through the scholarship, Alexa appreciates the $5,000 as a huge difference maker for herself and her family.

“It makes a really big difference,” says Alexa. “I was actually stressing out about how I was going to pay for school. When I won the scholarship, I was shocked and grateful, as it covers most everything I need.”

An event held on May 20th at Fort Worth Nissan consisted of drum-lines, food, and lots of fun to celebrate Alexa’s achievement. As one student moves forward flush with the benefits of Fort Worth Nissan’s generosity, another will get the opportunity in the next school year. Now an active scholarship partner with Fort Worth ISD, Fort Worth Nissan plans to offer another scholarship next fall.