Big Thursday scholarships make impact on education

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Big Thursday of Lancaster Inc. brings together area University of South Carolina and Clemson supporters.
When they leave, as strange as it may seem, both groups of backers are likely sporting smiles – toothy grins worth of a good day.
The Big Thursday Scholarship Committee has produced plenty of big smiles over the last few years.
The committee works to help county students who attend the University of South Carolina Lancaster and Clemson University.
This year, the Big Thursday Scholarship Committee, led by Richard Patterson and his dedicated group of Clemson, USCL and USC supporters, broke a record.
At the annual check presentations, each school – Clemson and USCL – received $20,000 for scholarships for county students attending the two schools.
The committee, in the face of a negative report on Lancaster as a pathetic Southern town prior to the Republican presidential primary, responded and used the less-than-flattering CNN report as motivation.
They may say Lancaster is lacking, but the scholarship committee is “We Are Lancaster” in action.
“People went to work knocking on doors and knocking on doors,” Patterson said. “This committee kept on going and what we have is a record-breaker.
“Their hearts are Lancaster County students getting an education. By educating our students, we will improve Lancaster.”
Patterson said the scholarship committee has its share of corporate sponsors, but a key in the latest success and a major player is the pledge sponsor program, which is open to individuals and businesses.
The program offers participants to make a $250 pledge – $5 for 50 weeks.
“If we could get the people of Lancaster who will donate $5 a week for educating our Lancaster County students, we can and will make great strides in improving our quality of life in Lancaster County,” Patterson said. “We give the pledge sponsors two weeks off for vacation, but the pledge must be in by the end of the year.”
The pledge sponsor program began with 29 in 2010 and increased to 40 last year.
They’re shooting for more this year.
The Big Thursday Scholarship Program is always looking to add more pledge sponsors and they’re also looking for volunteers to help in any way.
No matter how you choose to help, it will make a major impact.
“This is about the students,” USCL Dean Dr. John Catalano said. “It’s great for our students and great for Clemson students.”
Lancaster County Clemson Club President Rodney Thomas, who is active with the Clemson Alumni Council, said members of the CU group are amazed with the joint project of those who bleed orange and those who bleed garnet getting it done with the Big Thursday Scholarship.
“They can’t believe Clemson and South Carolina people can work together,” Thomas said. “One time a year we come together for something good.”
Since Big Thursday began, $294,600 has been distributed in scholarships – $147,300 for each school.
No wonder those folks boast smiling faces.