When he donated $125,000 a few years ago to establish the Bill Cossar Ole Miss First Scholarship at his alma mater, the Teasdale community resident had one thought in mind.
“You read that so many kids going to college owe so much money when they get out,” Bill Cossar recalled Friday. “Anything to, first, encourage them to go and, then, to help with the expenses once they get there, I’m happy to do.”
Courtney Ellett, the 18-year-old daughter of Jerry and Kim Ellett of the Murphreesboro community, can appreciate Cossar’s sentiment.
“Some of my friends’ major problem is they have to get a job because they can’t afford to go to Ole Miss (otherwise), and then their grades suffer because they don’t have time to study,” Ellett noted.
As the latest recipient of the Cossar scholarship, Ellett, a Grenada High School senior who lives in Tallahatchie County, said she is appreciative of the $2,500 per semester that the funds will provide to pay for her tuition at The University of Mississippi. Those funds will be available for eight semesters, for a total contribution of $20,000.
“I’m very thankful that I was even considered for the scholarship,” the straight-A student noted. “It’s going to help an awful lot because college is expensive.”
The Bill Cossar Ole Miss First Scholarship has few requirements, its founder said.
“Applicants have to be a Tallahatchie County resident. That’s it. If they live here, that’s who I want to help,” noted Cossar.
The Ole Miss First Scholarship Program has a few additional stipulations up front, including that all applicants have a minimum high school GPA of 3.0 (Cossar said Ellett has a 4.0) and an ACT of at least 25 (Ellett scored a 28).
The program also requires applicants to write an essay recollecting a major impact on their life.
There was never any question about Ellett’s subject matter.
She wrote about her late brother, and how his physical challenges inspired her choice of career path.
“My brother, Matt, was born with muscular dystrophy. He passed away in 2006,” Ellett recalled. “He was only supposed to live to be 3 to 5 years old, and he lived to be 16.”
Matt, she noted, required a feeding tube. He could not talk.
“I wrote about not taking anything for granted,” she said. “I was born fine. I haven’t had any medical problems all of my life. Matt couldn’t even walk or eat food. So I want to go to school and become a pediatrician so that I can help kids who have the same issues that he did.”
Ellett will major in biology at Ole Miss with plans to become a pediatrician.
Cossar said previous recipients of the scholarship he established also are engaged in notable endeavors.
“Courtney is my fourth,” he noted. “The other three have been outstanding.”
Cossar said Jasmine Turner of Tippo is in her fifth year at Ole Miss, where she is finishing up her first year of pharmacy school with two to go.
“I’ll be calling her Dr. Jasmine Turner,” he quipped.
Susie Tucker of the Cowart area completed her studies at Ole Miss and is now in graduate school pursuing a sports marketing degree from The University of Central Florida.
Leigh McKinney Bland of Charleston completed three years at Ole Miss and is in her second year of nursing school, Cossar explained.
He hopes to see more Tallahatchie County high school students on future lists of applicants for the Bill Cossar Ole Miss First Scholarship.
Cossar said the application process is not complicated.
The Ole Miss First Scholarship Program website states that students should apply for admission to The University of Mississippi and complete the Entering Freshman Scholarship Application. In some cases, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is also required.
The FAFSA application may be completed online.
“That’s all they have to do, and then I do the picking of the recipient,” said Cossar.
For more information, contact Cindy May, Ole Miss assistant director of financial aid, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-891-4596, or Rosie McDavid, Ole Miss First coordinator, at email@example.com or 1-662-915-3895.
Courtesy of Clay McFerrin, editor, Sun-Sentinel, Charleston, Mississippi