Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

Fall 2021 Hattie Strong Scholarship Awards are Announced

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

The Watson College joined a select group of 24 institutions as a Hattie M. Strong Foundation partner in 2013. The partnership allows WCE to offer $5,000 scholarships to outstanding pre-service teachers in the internship semester. Scholarships are awarded to students with strong academic performance, who show promise to be outstanding student interns and classroom teachers.

Please join us in extending congratulations to fall 2021 Hattie M. Strong scholarship recipients Ashley O’Brien and Hannah Chandler.

Ashley O’Brien

Ashley O’Brien will graduate in December with a degree in elementary education. She comes from a family of teachers that goes all the way back to her great-grandmother, and although she did not originally plan to follow in her family's footsteps, she found herself drawn to the profession.

“One day I stepped into a classroom, and something just clicked in my heart; it was a feeling of coming home or fitting in,” she said. “About 20 pairs of eyes turned to me at once, and I felt no pressure from their gaze. I was where I was meant to be, and I have been on the path toward becoming a teacher ever since.”

Ashley is enrolled in the extension program in Jacksonville where she lives with her husband and two young daughters.

“The professors, courses, and the way the program is set up have given me a strong foundation in teaching,” she said. “The staff genuinely care about the success of their students, and it shows in the way the courses and communication are set up. Working in the Ed lab with a single student prepared me for working with a whole group, and that prepared me for the 80 hours of field experience in the third block, which in turn prepared me for the internship. I am very thankful to be a part of such an excellent program.”

Ashley is currently completing her internship in a first-grade classroom at Jacksonville Commons Elementary school in Onslow County, and said the Hattie M. Strong Scholarship came at the perfect time.

“This award means so much to me,” she said. “I have been working full time while going to school and I have pushed myself along the way, but when it came to this semester, I had a lot to think about. I have two daughters and didn’t know how I could continue to work, finish my degree and still have precious time with my family. This scholarship award took away so much stress for me. I have been responsible for half of the household funds for over ten years, and the scholarship enabled me to quit my job to focus on becoming the best teacher I could be. Now I can rest easy knowing that my kids know they are loved and healthy and that I am building a solid foundation to better serve my future students.”

Hannah Chandler

Hannah Chandler is a student in WCE’s undergraduate elementary education program. Originally from Dover, North Carolina, Hannah said she chose to become a teacher because she wanted to make an impact, and she chose UNCW's Watson College of Education because of its location near family and the beach.

“The program, my professors, and my field experience have prepared me well for a teaching career,” she said. “I have learned different techniques and tips for teaching the different subjects as well as some positive ways to interact with children through courses and especially through hands-on experience in the field.”

Hannah said she feels very fortunate to have received a Hattie M. Strong scholarship during her final internship semester.

“I am so grateful for the Hattie M. Strong scholarship,” she said. “Because of the scholarship, I will without question be able to make it through my undergrad without any student loans which I am so grateful for. It will also make it more possible for me to continue my education by starting a master's program if this is what I decide when I graduate.”

When she’s not studying or student teaching, Hannah enjoys spending time with friends and family, paddle boarding and kayaking, and going to the beach. She also sings and plays the guitar.

Hannah said she is looking forward to her graduation in December and to a career “working with and positively impacting people.” 

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.