Jennifer Griffin '21 gave up extracurricular activities to take on a second part-time job. Her younger brother was going through a growth spurt, and the extra money she brought home helped their grandparents keep him in clothes that fit.
Despite having to make choices and face responsibilities most high schoolers never have to consider, Griffin remained focused on college. Now, as a first-year student at Davidson benefiting from scholarships and The Davidson Trust, she is charting a new path in a place that's not that far from home.
Tom and Nancy Maher, of Asheville, North Carolina, are helping to make the Davidson experience possible for Griffin, and for more students to come.
The Mahers, who say daughter Colleen '14 had an extraordinary academic experience at Davidson, have created two endowed scholarships that will provide long-term support for students from Western North Carolina.
The Maher Family Western North Carolina Scholarship and The Pisgah Investments Foundation Scholarship are awarded with a preference for first-generation college students from public high schools in the 16 Western North Carolina counties. These gifts support the college's commitment to educational excellence and access and make it possible for well deserving and highly motivated students to attend and succeed at Davidson.
"Financial need should not be an obstacle in matching talented students with an outstanding educational experience," said the couple. "Davidson provides a unique balance, with academic excellence, school spirit, athletics and arts in an intimate, caring and thoughtful community. We want to help more students become a part of that enriching environment."
The Mahers value the way Davidson challenges its students to explore, analyze, synthesize and create throughout a rigorous, yet rewarding, academic experience.
"The rewards to Davidson students are many: substantial knowledge and reasoning skills, care, concern and creative thinking for community, near and far," they said. "They also develop a fabulous network of talented and thoughtful friends united in a common Davidson experience and shared set of values."
Students benefiting from the Mahers' generosity will have the many opportunities that were available to Colleen '14, an economics major who graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Davidson and now works in New York.
"As parents, the strong bonds between students, as well as between students and faculty, were heartwarming to witness," said the couple. "Colleen was well prepared to enter her professional career with strong analytical skills, an inquisitive spirit and solid values. Davidson played an integral role in her character development, and we are honored to help provide that opportunity for other deserving young people."
This fall, Griffin became the inaugural recipient of The Pisgah Investments Foundation Scholarship. Griffin ranked in the top three percent of her graduating class from Polk County High School and comes to the college with an outstanding record of academic achievement, community service and personal integrity.
Griffin knew Davidson would not be possible without scholarships, but the school was her top choice because of the challenging academics and proximity to home.
"I love the location because I have access to a big city, yet I'm still in a small town, which reminds me of home," she said. "And I wanted to be close enough to home to be able to see my brother, whom I've helped raise. We live with our grandparents, who are unable to help with college financially, so scholarships were a must-have. Everything I needed was here at Davidson."
Griffin's high school guidance counselor, Meghan Mauldin, witnessed Griffin work toward her college dream.
"Jennifer has a nontraditional family situation and has dealt with things that someone her age should not have to face," Mauldin said. "She thinks about others first, and she is driven and goal oriented. It's so rewarding to see kids like Jennifer beat the odds. She made sure she was ready for Davidson."
Griffin is not alone. Her high school is full of bright, capable students who, Mauldin said, would benefit from going away to college and learning about people from different cultures and walks of life.
"People are familiar with larger areas like Asheville and Boone, but there are many small, rural areas in Western North Carolina that are basically unknown," she said. "A large number of our students have the ability to go to a selective, strong school like Davidson, but they can't consider it without financial assistance."
In her first semester, Griffin embraced the close relationships with professors and their genuine interest in her progress, as well as the opportunity to develop friendships with students whose backgrounds differ from her own.
"Being first generation and given my family circumstances, a school like Davidson is exactly where I need to be to succeed," Griffin said.