Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

Spring 2015 HMS Foundation Scholarship Awards are Announced

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Hattie M. Strong Foundation

The Watson College of Education joined a select group of 21 institutions as a Hattie M. Strong Foundation partner in 2013. The partnership allows WCE to offer a $5,000 scholarship each semester for three years to outstanding pre-service teachers in the internship semester. The foundation generously provided additional funding this year that has enabled WCE to award two scholarships for the spring 2015 semester.

Scholarships are awarded to students with strong academic performance, who show promise to be outstanding student interns and classroom teachers, and have financial need. Please join us in extending congratulations to Sarah Sniff and Ebonie Brownlee, spring 2015 recipients of the Hattie M. Strong Foundation Scholarship at UNCW.

Sarah SniffSarah Sniff

Sarah Sniff, a student in the Adapted Curriculum (AC) Special Education Program at the Watson College, is passionate about teaching, helping others and volunteering in the community.

Sniff said she was drawn to the field of special education as a junior in high school.  She came to know a freshman named Adam who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Adam was creative and intelligent, but many people couldn’t see past his disability.

“I knew at that moment, I wanted to advocate for him” and other students with special needs, Sniff said.

A native of Ohio, Sniff actively sought hands-on learning opportunities from the moment she arrived on the UNCW campus. She joined the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) as a freshman, and served as president of the organization during the 2013-14 school year. While Sniff was president, SCEC partnered with the Miracle League of Wilmington to coach students with exceptional needs, hosted a fashion show to raise awareness of individuals with disabilities, helped out with Special Olympic track and field events and received UNCW’s prestigious Outstanding Community Service Award in recognition of their extensive volunteerism.

Sniff completed several field placements through the Watson College. She was a counselor for two summers at Victory Junction, a camp for children with serious illnesses, and went on to become a licensed EMT. She also works with individuals with profound disabilities through her employment with Bayada Home Health Care.

Linda Mechling, professor of special education at the Watson College, has worked closely with Sniff, instructing her in five courses in the AC program, and supervising her in lab and field placements in special education classrooms at Hoggard High School, Topsail Elementary School, Williston Middle School, North Brunswick High School and the Transition Program for Young Adults in New Hanover County.

Mechling said Sniff was a pleasure to teach and a strong leader of the university’s chapter of SCEC.

“Sarah contributed to the involvement of SCEC in supporting the Miracle League of Wilmington and The Gathering Place (special activity program for persons with disabilities) for which she is a strong advocate and volunteer member,” Mechling said. “Through her many efforts, she demonstrates a strong and life-long commitment to the education and betterment of persons with disabilities.”

Sniff is looking forward to her internship and becoming a high school special education teacher.

“At that age, it’s the time in their lives that they are working on finding out exactly who they are and what they want to do when they graduate; it’s unbelievably exciting,” she said. “I want to be the teacher that guides my students in reaching their final goals in school, supports them in the transition to living as independently as possible, and empowers them to never stop achieving.”

Sniff, who has worked long hours in the evenings to help pay for school for the past four years, was worried how she could continue to do so during the internship semester. She said she’s thrilled to receive the Hattie M. Strong Scholarship because it will enable her to work less and “absorb every moment of my student teaching.”

Ebonie Brownlee

Ebonie Brownlee is enrolled in the Elementary Education Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at the Watson College.

Brownlee, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Florida in 2009, said a love of theatre drew her to the teaching profession.

Ebonie BrownleeAs an undergraduate, Brownlee studied theatre arts and was cast in a play every semester. After graduation, she moved to Jacksonville, N.C. with her husband, and began work at a before and after school program at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Brownlee introduced the idea of a children’s play to the program director, and soon she was writing and directing plays focused on themes relevant to military children, such as deployment.

“The children were able to make connections with the content and it was evident through their conversations with their peers,” Brownlee said. “Witnessing the influence the plays had on the children fueled a desire in me to become a teacher.”

She began taking classes at Coastal Carolina Community College and soon, with encouragement from a favorite teacher, she enrolled in the MAT program at the Watson College. Brownlee has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Assistant professor Martin Wasserberg taught Brownlee during her first semester in the program and supervised her field experience visits to local elementary schools. “Ebonie distinguished herself as a stellar scholar,” Wasserberg said. “Her responses to class discussions were often insightful and manifested a deep understanding of issues pertinent to the field.”

Associate professor Brad Walker said, “Ebonie is the kind of student we all want in our classes. She is intelligent, hard-working and committed. She is a self-starter.”

Walker was also impressed with Brownlee’s work with students in the classroom. “She was always well-prepared, she created a positive, supportive rapport with her students, and I could see her commitment to helping each of her students succeed,” he said. “She will be a very successful, effective teacher.”

Brownlee said she had to tackle some doubts before enrolling in graduate school. “I knew I had the ability to teach, but I did not have the funds to prepare myself as an educator,” she said.  The Hattie M. Strong Scholarship has helped to ease the burden. “The award will provide financial stability as I complete my graduate program,” she said.

Brownlee is excited about her future career plans. “Becoming a teacher is more than a job. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, where I can make an authentic connection and impact the lives of students,” she said.

The Hattie M. Strong Foundation

Since 1928, the Hattie M. Strong Foundation (HMSF) has helped aspiring students achieve a college degree in their chosen field of study by providing interest-free loans with flexible repayment terms. In 2009, recognizing the alarming debt loads of recent graduates, the foundation’s board of directors moved to offer scholarships instead. Today, HMSF’s primary activity is the administration of a scholarship program aimed at college students enrolled in teacher training programs at partnering institutions. Partner colleges are selected based on demonstrated leadership in preparing outstanding classroom teachers.

A specific goal of the foundation is to help reduce financial pressure during the student internship semester, when a student’s ability to offset expenses with outside employment is curtailed by the rigor of full-time work in the classroom.

For additional information, visit www.hattie.org.