Eleven Alcoa High School graduates received a total of $13,500 in scholarships this year because of the legacy of a former teaching assistant at their alma mater.
The Mr. P’s Foundation, which honors the memory of Dennis Pershing, has given a total of $313,500 to 111 graduates since the program was established in 2007.
This year the foundation awarded:
• $2,000 scholarships to Taysia A. Johnson and K’Vaughn M. Tyson.
• $1,500 scholarships to Noah B. Evans and Joseph B. Hendrick.
• $1,000 scholarships to Jayla A. Carter, Taylor D. Johnson, Haylee B. Marsh, Tyren A. McNear, Ka’rheyn A. Miller and Brady S. White.
• $500 scholarship to Blake C. Clark.
Students may use the scholarships for postsecondary education at a college or technical school.
Known as “Mr. P,” Pershing worked at AHS from 1982 until his death on Dec. 18, 2006. He assisted with the Helping Every Learner Progress (HELP) program, and his co-workers said he personified the school’s mission of patience, empathy and working with others.
In 2007 his family established the Mr. P’s Foundation to honor his memory and help students who wish to continue their education, said Ed Pershing, Dennis’ brother and CEO of PYA, a consulting and accounting firm.
In 2009, the Alcoa Board of Education named the alternative school program the Pershing Academy of Learning (PAL) to honor Mr. P, who greeted everyone with his “Hi, pal.”
The foundation’s selection committee and the high school’s guidance counselors consider financial need, grade-point average, ACT scores, letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities as criteria for scholarships. Overcoming obstacles such as physical disabilities, health problems or limited family support also weigh in their decisions, said Jim Pershing, another of Dennis’ brothers.
Foundation board members and Selection Committee members are: Steve Bledsoe, Alcoa Middle School assistant principal; David R. Duggan, Blount County Circuit Court judge; Ed Pershing; Jim Pershing; Rhonda Clark; and Barry Silver, PYA chief operating officer.