Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

Spring 2017 HMS Foundation Scholarship Awards are Announced

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Watson College of Education joined a select group of 24 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 that has enabled WCE to award four scholarships for the spring 2017 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 Nora Abushakra, Korall Gilbert, Torrance Jones and Jennifer Justus, spring 2017 recipients of the Hattie M. Strong Foundation Scholarship at UNCW.

Nora Abushakra

Nora Abushakra is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) Middle Grades Education program at WCE. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Coastal Carolina University and a master’s in international relations from the University of South Carolina. She was a small business boutique owner, world traveler and long-time school volunteer before deciding to pursue a career in teaching.

“While I always knew that teaching was my calling in life, I wanted to be sure that I was well-equipped for the enormous task of molding and shaping young minds,” Abushakra said. “I wanted to be an educator who had mastered my content, had experienced the world, achieved success and felt the sting of failure. It is exactly this education, experience and passion for learning that I want to put to work for my students. I want them to believe that a good education can help them to achieve any dream that they have for themselves.”

The mom of a busy two-year-old, taking courses online helped Abushakra keep up with coursework, field placements and service learning projects as she worked to complete her degree. She feels honored and blessed to have been chosen for a Hattie M. Strong scholarship award, she said. “This scholarship means so much to me. Now I can fully focus on and enjoy the student teaching experience rather than being preoccupied with the financial burden that the internship semester will bring.”

Korall Gilbert

Korall Gilbert is a senior enrolled in WCE’s Elementary Education program. She graduated from Topsail High School and attended Cape Fear Community College before transferring to UNCW. Gilbert is the oldest of seven, mother of one-year-old Arabella and a certified yoga instructor who conducted yoga classes for her WCE peers and used her yoga experiences to complete a focus paper on mindfulness in the classroom. In May, she will become the first in her family to graduate from college.   

“I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in the second grade,” she said.

Gilbert has gratitude and appreciation for her experiences at the Watson College. Her professors were “wonderful, kind and inspiring,” and classroom visits and field experiences at Bradley Creek, Wrightsboro, Blair and Rachel Freeman Elementary Schools and work in the Ed Lab have helped her prepare for her future career, she said.

This spring, she will complete an internship at Island Montessori School. The Hattie Strong scholarship will relieve her financial stress, and Gilbert said she’s honored to know faculty recommended her for the award. “It feels good to know they have confidence in me based on my participation in class and work with students in the classroom,” she said.

Torrance Jones

Torrance Jones is enrolled in the Special Education General Curriculum program at WCE. He is also assistant basketball coach at Ashley High School and president of UNCW’s student chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Jones graduated from East Chapel Hill High School, attended Louisburg College and worked for two years as an elementary school teaching assistant and assistant high school basketball coach before enrolling at UNCW.

His goal is to teach elementary students with emotional and behavioral disorders. “Many of these kids feel so alone,” he said. “They need to know someone cares about them. That comes naturally to me. I want to have the opportunity to help change their philosophy and outlook on life.”

He sees the same opportunity to help shape lives in his work as a coach. “As a J.V. coach, I get students at a fragile state. I teach them that basketball can help them learn a lot about discipline, accountability, teamwork and how to deal with adversity,” he said. “I tell students that sports aren’t forever, but they can help build life skills.”

Jones was surprised and pleased when he learned of his Hattie Strong Scholarship award. “I’m used to working full time as a T.A. and a coach while taking classes, but I had no idea how I would pay the rent and manage financially during the internship semester,” he said. “The scholarship will be a tremendous help as I work to achieve the goals and dreams I’ve set for myself.”

Jennifer Justus

Jennifer Justus is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) Elementary Education program at the Watson College. After graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in marketing and international business, she joined Peace Corps Mauritania and spent three years working in the West African desert nation.

Now a mother of three, Justus said a love of children and her work volunteering in her children’s elementary school drew her to the teaching profession. “I believe that every child deserves the best education and I want to be a part of providing that,” she said.

Coursework, field placements and WCE’s focus on integrating content across subjects and introducing global issues into the classroom have helped her prepare for her future career, Justus said.

“Teaching a lesson is very different than helping a teacher out during her lesson and activity,” she said. “I have learned methods and activities that will aid me in engaging the students in math, science, reading/writing, and social studies. I think the focus on integration is an excellent one and each professor has shown ways to implement integration into all lessons.”

The Hattie Strong scholarship will help Justus cover childcare costs during the internship semester and acquire supplies for her future classroom. “I really appreciate that the scholarship is out there for students pursuing a teaching degree; it is very helpful in so many ways,” she said.

The Hattie M. Strong Foundation

Since 1928, the Hattie M. Strong Foundation 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.