Alcoa High School Class of 2020 Mr. P's Scholarship winners

A dozen Alcoa High School seniors receiving scholarships from Mr. P's Foundation received plaques at their graduation practice this month. 

Twelve Alcoa High School graduates are finding the cost of continuing their educations easier because of the legacy of a former educator at their alma mater.

The Mr. P’s Foundation, which honors the memory of Dennis Pershing, awarded $20,000 in scholarships for 2020.

This year’s recipients and the scholarship amounts are: Marsa Ayl, $2,000; Lauron Ferguson, $2,000; Demetrius “Malik” Hall, $2,000; Jenna Martin, $2,000; Dustin Miller, $2,000; Elijah Mitchell, $1,000; Ashley Nunez, $2,000; Thomas “Zeke” Rankin, $1,000; Nicholas “Nick” Roberts, $1,000; Sara Grace Travis, $2,000; Katelynn “Katie” Vaughn, $1,000; Jessie Williams, $2,000.

Dennis “Mr. P” Pershing worked at Alcoa High School for almost 25 years. He assisted with the Helping Every Learner Progress (HELP) program. 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 graduates continue their educations, according to Ed Pershing, Dennis’ brother.

Established in 2007, the foundation has awarded a total of $333,500 in scholarships for postsecondary education to 123 graduates to date.

In 2009 the Alcoa Board of Education named the alternate school program the Pershing Academy of Learning (PAL) to honor Pershing’s memory. Mr. P, who greeted everyone with “Hi Pal,” served the students of Alcoa High School from July 13, 1982, until his death Dec. 18, 2006.

The foundation’s selection committee, assisted by the high school’s principal and guidance counselors, consider 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 are other considerations in the process, said Jim Pershing, another of Dennis’ brothers.

Interviewing each applicant usually is part of the selection process but was not possible this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

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.

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