"...she truly believed in education and that every kid should have an education, or at least have an opportunity to get an education."

On Thursday, September 1, Clayton County Chairman Jeff Turner and family presented scholarship checks to the grandmothers of three local students now attending college.

“We’re here to provide scholarships to some deserving students who went through the Kinship Care program and are now in college,” Turner told the crowd at Kinship Care. “Not going to college, they’re in college. That’s why they can’t be here tonight.”

This year’s winners are:

  • Angelica Scott: $5,500 (Albany State University)
  • Ma’kala Smith: $4,500 (Savannah State University)
  • Char’nice Allen Davis: $3,000 (Georgia State University)

The Classie Mae Turner Scholarship in memory of Turner’s mother goes to select students in the Kinship Care program. Kinship Care provides support for grandparents raising grandchildren.

“My family and I were talking about how do we give back, and how do we honor my late mother, Classie Mae Turner. And what we came up with was a scholarship,” Turner said, “because she truly believed in education and that every kid should have an education, or at least have an opportunity to get an education.”

The students write an essay explaining what the scholarship would mean to them and how they would use it. Each student also sends in a copy of their high school diploma and acceptance letter from their college. Turner’s family reads all the essays and, after much intense discussion, determines the winners.

Present at Thursday’s scholarship dinner were Turner, his wife “and the lovely coordinator for this program”, Darlene; his father, Eddie (who just turned 90), and sisters Jennifer Reid and Deborah Pippins. Turner’s other siblings are Linda Love, Cynthia Youngblood, and Ronald Turner; Youngblood came all the way from Texas just for the 5K last weekend.

Proceeds from Chairman Turner’s 5K run are split 50-50 between Clayton County CASA, whose volunteers serve as advocates for children in the court system, and the Classie Mae Turner scholarship fund.

CASA Volunteer Supervisor Cory Jones congratulated the scholars.

“Our CASA [Court Appointed Special Advocates] program is a Clayton County program, but it’s Georgia-recognized and the state program is also a national program with CASA,” Jones explained. “We work with children who are in foster care, but we also work with kids that are being raised by grandparents. We help with the process of them getting custody, and then we bring them to Kinship Care and let them know about the programs here that they can look into. We appreciate partnering with Chairman Turner to bring this awareness of the program, and congratulations again to your children.”

Drew Andrews, who is CASA’s board treasurer, said “CASA is comprised of community members who volunteer to help children who are abused and neglected find safe and stable homes. And I understand that Kinship Care has loving families, and you’re stepping up to make sure that our children are loved, cultivated in homes full of joy, so they can reach their highest human potential.” He said this is the fifth year that CASA has partnered with the Chairman Turner 5K Run.

“The money that we raise through the 5K, though it’s definitely not going to make anybody rich, okay?” Turner said. “But it’s always enough to provide for books or whatever the child needs at their dorm, for books, for food or whatever, and we are truly honored to be in a position to be able to provide this to the kids that are graduating through this program.”

Accepting on the scholars’ behalf were their grandmothers because the students have already started college.

C.D. Scott accepted for her granddaughter, Angelica, who’s majoring in health science at Albany State. “It means a lot because we’ll be able to pay for a new things and pay on a couple of loans. It’s an opportunity to keep moving forward. I don’t know where it’s all coming from, since I have two others [to raise].”

Kristen Allen-Joyner accepted for her granddaughter, Char’nice Allen Davis, who’s majoring in health science and business administration at Georgia State: “She wants to be a nurse like me, and then use those skills to help the homeless….She want to open a nonprofit.” She said the scholarship means a lot “because I can’t afford to put her through college. I’m not working anymore, and I have so many kids, and I’ve already got two in college. This is going towards her meal plan because we couldn’t afford her meal plan. They dropped her as a student, so we had to take her off there. It was ridiculous.”

Shirley Floyd, Ma’kala Smith’s grandmother, also expressed gratitude for the scholarship, which will help Smith study education at Savannah State. “Oh. honey, it means a lot to me,” Floyd said. “She’s the third granddaughter that I raised, and she’s always wanted to go to school, you know, but she felt like we couldn’t afford it. She’s doing her best to keep her grades up, you know, so she did pretty good with that. She finished with what, a 3.6, APA, so she did get HOPE and Pell. But then she also had to get some loans, a couple of loans, to finish out what she need. And now she’s still getting stuck where she needs books and she needs—she called me today and said she’s gotta pay $85 for a class, that she have to go to the bookstore and get, somehow where you go on the computer and do it, I’m not familiar with it. But anyway, she’s having to do that. But then, she will be my first granddaughter to go to college. And I am so proud of her. I’m so proud of her. She wants to be a teacher. She wants to be a math teacher because, when she was in school, they were having such a hard time getting math teachers. And I hear Georgia is still short of math teachers. She’s real good with kids and she wants to teach.”

Turner said he has a soft spot for Kinship Care.

“I have an affinity for them. They done raised kids and now they find themselves raising kids all over again. So anything I can do to help their grandkids go to college. I strive to do, and my family is a big part of making that happen.”

To learn more about CASA or to apply to be a volunteer, visit claytoncasa.com. The next training session starts September 13.

For more information about the Kinship Care Resource Center, visit https://www.claytonseniors.com/senior-center-locations/kinship-care-resource-center/ or call (770) 473-5788.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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