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Oconeefest raises more than $16K for scholarships

Oconeefest Michelle Correll
Oconee scholarship recipient Michelle Correll, who graduated in 2017 and now works for UNG, thanks scholarship donors for supporting students at the fifth annual Oconeefest on Oct. 18.

Oconee scholarship recipients thanked the community for bolstering their dreams of a college education at the fifth annual Oconeefest scholarship fundraiser Oct. 18 at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Oconee Campus. The event raised more than $16,000 for scholarships for Oconee County students attending any UNG campus, including more than $3,500 from a live auction that was held for the first time.

Michelle Correll, a staff associate in the Office of Student Involvement, received the $1,000 scholarship in 2016. The 2017 UNG graduate said the scholarship helped her graduate without debt. She was a first-generation, non-traditional, low-income student who worked as a student assistant in the same office where she now works.

"Everything in my background said that I was not good enough to attend college," Correll said. "Receiving the Oconee scholarship presented the ultimate challenge to my perception, a challenge that altered the course of my life."

Paige Holden, a freshman business management major who received an Oconee scholarship in spring 2018, recounted losing everything in a fire seven years ago. While that wiped out much of the money her family had saved for her college expenses, Holden was intrigued by UNG's "outstanding, affordable nursing program" and its military support. She wants to be a nurse in the Air Force.

"You helped a girl that lost everything one night seven years ago be able to go to school like she never lost anything, but gained everything," Holden told the scholarship donors. "You gave me, a dreaming pre-nursing student, the chance to go to college at the one place I fell in love with, so I can later give back to the community in a few years — and hopefully the country — as a nurse in the Air Force."

Dr. Cyndee Perdue Moore, executive director, also thanked the community for backing UNG's Oconee Campus.

"Your support means everything to us," Moore said.

Correll expressed gratitude for how her scholarship made her feel included.

"My experience illustrates the ways UNG scholarship funds provide for students who may have fallen outside the parameters of the traditional student experience," Correll said.

Holden said the scholarships help students chase their dreams.

"Thank you for giving your country's next generation of leaders a chance to learn," Holden said. "Thank you for the full support and assurance for just giving us a chance to achieve what we were meant to do."

After hearing the two Oconee scholarship recipients' stories of overcoming obstacles, Dr. Richard Oates, vice president of the Gainesville Campus, said "that's what it's all about."

"Thank you for trusting us with your most precious resource: your sons and daughters from Oconee County," Oates said.

Ryan Hawk, senior vice president of business development for presenting sponsor Peach State Federal Credit Union, said his company is glad to be able to help students pursue their education. Peach State has been a part of Oconeefest since its inception, and Hawk announced the credit union is extending its support through 2020.

"We've been here since the beginning," Hawk said. "It's great to see what it's grown into."

The presenting sponsors for Oconeefest were Peach State Federal Credit Union and Bulldog 93.3-FM; platinum sponsors were Georgia Power and Piedmont Athens Regional; gold sponsors were AmeriPride, Georgia United Credit Union, Oconee State Bank, River Mill, Rotary Club of Oconee County, and UNG Real Estate Foundation; silver sponsors were BankSouth and Nebraska Book Company; and friends sponsors were Owen & Exley; North Oconee Rotary Club; Ronda Holloway, CPA; Resource Accounting; and Terrapin Beer.

Extra Special People's "Joyristas" served coffee at the event, courtesy of W&A Engineering.

Oconeefest live auction
Oconeefest featured a live auction for the first time this year.

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