With a new $7.25 million commitment to the University of Mississippi, the Luckyday Foundation of Jackson is ensuring that entering freshmen and community college transfers have strong support and exceptional opportunities to help them earn college degrees.
Already numbering close to 2,700 strong, Luckyday Scholars are excelling and graduating.
The foundation's newly inked four-year agreement brings the total educational support for Ole Miss students to $55 million since the program's inception in 2000, as it fulfills the vision of the late banker Frank Rogers Day. The Aberdeen, Mississippi, native created his foundation to provide educational opportunities for Mississippians.
"The late Frank Day was a stellar business leader who envisioned lifting up his home state and its citizens by providing resources to help young people pursue college degrees," Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said . "Now the Luckyday Foundation board of managers is expanding this alumnus' significant legacy, diligently working as our partners to ensure that this scholarship program provides an exceptional level of support to students.
"Lives have been transformed through this successful initiative at Ole Miss, and other universities are looking to model its components. We are grateful for the Luckyday Foundation's latest expression of approval for the program and our staff."
Attorney Holmes Adams of Jackson, chair of the Luckyday Foundation board of managers, monitors the academic success of the students and says their achievements have increased consistently over the years. For example, of the 75 freshmen who were chosen for Luckyday Success Scholarships in fall 2015 – many of whom were the first in their families to attend college – 96 percent returned in fall 2016.
"The University of Mississippi has been a very good steward of our support," Adams said. "The aim is for these students to obtain college degrees; however, the board has been astounded by how beneficial the program has become and the level of commitment by Ole Miss staff members.
"Our scholarship recipients not only excel in academics, but they also are stars in their own right across the campus. The programming and support is equipping these students to make real contributions in a number of campus organizations, a huge benefit of this program the board did not anticipate. We believe Frank Day would be extremely pleased."
Key to the program's success is the help with the transition from high school or community college to a major university with almost 25,000 students. Luckyday Scholars benefit from three full-time staff members, who meet with recipients on a monthly basis, and from guidance provided by peer mentors.
Foundation board members come to campus twice a year for visits with students and make a point of meeting with them in small groups to get feedback on program components. For one home football game each fall, the students, program alumni and board members gather for a tailgate to keep building a network of support.
This network and sense of community are among the outstanding aspects of the program, Adams said.
"There is such a strong presence of support among our students and a warm sense of cooperation between the program and Ole Miss administrators and staff across campus," he said. "The Luckyday program is very intentional – nurturing and supportive – giving young people the confidence to accomplish things they never thought possible.
"Working with this program is one of the greatest gifts I've been given. The board and I enjoy seeing these students perform well."
The donor's story resonates well when encouraging students to perform, said Patrick Perry, director of the university's Luckyday program.
"Frank Day established a model of working hard and giving back," he said, referring to Day's rise from the mailroom to become CEO of Trustmark Bank in Jackson and founder of a foundation to provide scholarships. "We try to instill in our students the ideals of working hard to achieve their individual goals and the importance of developing relationships with others to be successful and happy in life.
"Just recently, I heard from the parent of a former Luckyday Scholar who is now a successful engineer. He said the required study hall component helped his daughter develop strong study habits that served her well throughout her college career. Hearing those stories encourage the staff in our work, as well as this tremendous support from the foundation."
Each year, 80 freshmen – all Mississippi residents with an ACT score of 20 or higher and high school GPA of 3.2 or higher – are awarded Luckyday Success Scholarships, which provide $2,000 to $5,000 annually depending on remaining financial need after other scholarships and grants are awarded.
Students can continue to receive the support as long as they maintain minimum requirements, which include attending an annual retreat, fulfilling study hall hours and living for the first two years in the Luckyday Residential College, a living-learning community that includes a dining facility, its own library and exercise facility, and a resident faculty fellow.
The Luckyday program also ensures that 25 Mississippi community college transfers are chosen each year for $10,000 in scholarship funds for their remaining two years of study, or up to $5,000 an academic year.
Transfer recipients must be Mississippi residents and have remaining financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, and after other scholarships and grants have been awarded. Also, eligible recipients must have a minimum 3.0 GPA on at least 48 transferable community college credit hours.
Freshmen enroll in the EDHE 105 course, designed to help students successfully transition from high school, develop a better understanding of the learning process and acquire essential life skills; transfer students enroll in EDHE305, helping them adjust to the university setting, providing resume preparation and business etiquette lessons, and more.
Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, applauded the foundation's leadership for its inclusion of community college student transfers in the program.
"The University of Mississippi is incredibly fortunate to be associated with the Luckyday Foundation," she said. "Most notably, the board recognizes that many Mississippi students choose to attend community college before attending our campus, so the scholarships specifically for transfer students have an immediate and important impact.
"I personally enjoy working with the Luckyday Foundation board members because they are deeply committed to making responsive and responsible decisions about how they extend support. The transfer student scholarship is a great example of their thoughtful, generous and inclusive leadership."
In 1991, the foundation also created the Christine and Clarence Day Scholarships, honoring Frank Day's mother and father, in the Ole Miss School of Business Administration. In 2001, the Luckyday Foundation joined with the Mississippi Bankers Association to endow the Frank R. Day/Mississippi Bankers Association Chair of Banking on the Oxford campus, and the holder is Ken Cyree, dean of business administration.
For more information on the scholarships, visit http://luckydayscholarship.olemiss.edu/scholarship/.
By Tina Hahn