Shakhenyah Beersheba Reyes-Fernandez, Melanie Alexandra Perez, Enedina Garcia-Arellano, and Abigail Wilks hold their certificates
Shakhenyah Beersheba Reyes-Fernandez, Melanie Alexandra Perez, Enedina Garcia-Arellano and Abigail Wilks (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau awards scholarships for first-generation students, academic achievement

May 31, 2022
Alyson Shields

Thanks to scholarships from Brenau University and grant funding, four young women will have their tuition completely covered to attend The Women’s College at Brenau University this fall. 

The university recognized the newest recipients of its Brenau Scholar and Brenau Dreams scholarships during a ceremony held this month on the historic Gainesville, Georgia, campus. Brenau funding for each of the four scholarships totals some $75,000 to $100,000 per recipient over four years; in addition, funding for each student may include state grants such as HOPE scholarships and federal grants.

“We are pleased to reward these extraordinary young women and welcome them to The Women’s College in the fall,” Interim Vice President for Enrollment Laura Oliveira said. “ These scholarships not only reward their achievement and potential but allow these students the chance to focus on their studies and the college experience without worrying about financing their education.”

Abigail Wilks and Anne Skleder with Abigail's certificate.
Abigail Wilks and President Anne Skleder (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Abigail Wilks of Macon, Georgia, was recognized for her academic achievement with the Brenau Scholar award. Wilks, a graduating senior at Mary Persons High School, is dual enrolled at Middle Georgia College and intends to major in psychology at Brenau. 

Brenau Dreams scholarships, designated for first-generation college students from Hall County, went to graduating seniors Melanie Perez from East Hall High School, Shakhenyah Reyes-Fernandez from Johnson High School and Enedina Garcia-Arellano from West Hall High School. The Brenau Dreams scholarship is in its second year and recipients are selected based on an essay.

The Brenau Scholar award is a long-standing scholarship offered to students with superior academic performance. Recipients are selected based on an interview and essay.

Wilks is active in the thespian troupe at Mary Persons High School and is a member of Tri-M Music Honors Society. She said she looks forward to achieving the goals set forth in the Brenau Ideal.

“I will continue to love deeply. I will make new friends and build relationships that will last a lifetime. I will be able to meet people that I would never have met if I did not attend college,” Wilks said. “I will be working on fearing nothing by stepping out of my comfort zone and living on campus. I will not let fear get in my way.”

The Brenau Dreams scholarship essay focused on how winning the scholarship would change the recipients’ lives.

“I can show women in my community that a first-generation Latina made it to college, and will successfully graduate from a great university to be a leader in our society who helps improve and impact people’s lives,” Perez said. She plans to study history and political science. “By showing other women my journey, I hope to impact many women and show them that anybody can get where they want by putting in the effort and dedication.”

Shakhenyah Beersheba Reyes-Fernandez shakes President Anne Skleder's hand
Shakhenyah Beersheba Reyes-Fernandez shakes President Anne Skleder’s hand (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Reyes-Fernandez has been accepted into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program through Brenau’s new direct-entry program. She said she knew the value of higher education, even though no one in her family has attended college.

“Growing up I faced financial challenges, but looking back, those struggles have encouraged me more than I thought they would have,” Reyes-Fernandez said. “Such circumstances motivated me to analyze the opportunity of furthering my education. I want to be the difference in my family and succeed in my future like my family has encouraged and supported me to do.” 

Garcia-Arellano is undecided on her field of study and said her family made an impact on her decision to seek higher education. 

“Not only is it my dream to help the people I greatly love in Mexico, but it will help me move a step ahead in my biggest dream: to make my mom and my dad proud of who I have become,” Garcia-Arellano said. “They mean the world to me, and one of the ways I can show them how I feel is by achieving my university education.”