When the late Bernice and John Denley Jr. were raising their family in Tallahatchie County following the Great Depression, money was tight and making even a meager living on their farm was difficult.
But one belief the couple held and passed on to their children was that getting an education is an important part of rising above life's hardships. Against the odds, they were able to enroll all four of their children at the University of Mississippi.
Honoring the couple for their sacrifices, an anonymous donor has established the Bernice Raggett and John Barksdale Denley Jr. Scholarship at Ole Miss, with awarding preferences going to students in Tallahatchie, Grenada, Bolivar, Yalobusha and Sunflower counties. This fall, the scholarship has been awarded for the first time, to entering freshman Omar Salim Sharabati of Cleveland.
Sharabati graduated from Cleveland High School with a 3.96 grade-point average. He received the Daughters of the American Revolution Award and academic awards in Honors English, chemistry, algebra II, geometry and trigonometry. He served on the Student Council and as vice president of the Interact Club and president of the National Honor Society.
"Scholarship support is critically important to helping deserving young people have the necessary resources to attend the University of Mississippi," said Sandra Guest, UM Foundation vice president. "Through the years, I've had many students share with me how the scholarship assistance they received made a significant impact on their ability to come to Ole Miss and pursue their dreams. We are deeply grateful for this donor's support."