Local students benefit from UWA scholarship

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two University of West Alabama students are attending classes tuition-free this year, thanks to a pair of friends who established generous scholarships at the Livingston institution simply to help others.

Demopolis residents Dr. Ronnie Chu, a Hong Kong native, and Honduran-born J.R. Rivas together funded the scholarships for Marengo County students to attend UWA as a way to support both the University and the county that has become their home.

Junior English major Sydney Broadaway of Linden received the Future Leaders of Demopolis Scholarship, and freshman allied health major Jennifer Holmes of Demopolis was awarded the Chu and Rivas Family Scholarship. Both scholarships provide one year’s tuition.

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Chu, a family practitioner with practices in Demopolis and Linden, knows firsthand the importance of scholarships, as he received them at both Houston Baptist University and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. It is his desire to reward hard-working students, with at least a 3.0 grade point average, who may be overlooked for other academic scholarships or need-based financial aid.

“I’m thankful for the blessings my family enjoys, but there comes a point when materialistic things matter less than the good you can do for another person,” explained Chu, who has called Demopolis home for nearly a decade.

“Recently, J.R., my wife Lucy, and I were discussing how very fortunate we have been in our careers, and we decided this scholarship program would be a great way to assist local college students in realizing their own goals,” Chu said. “We hope to continue providing scholarships for many years, while encouraging other businesspeople to contribute as well.”

Rivas, who owns a large landscaping company with contracts across the United States, moved to Demopolis in 1996. He says he is happy to provide something for the community that has embraced his whole family.

“Ronnie and I know that there are many people who have helped us get where we are today, for example in my business and his practice, and we just wanted to give back in any way that we could,” said Rivas, a father of six.

“Dr. Chu and Mr. Rivas’ actions speak so loudly through their generosity,” said UWA President Richard D. Holland. “Although these gentlemen are not UWA graduates, they recognize this institution’s importance to the Black Belt region, and just as importantly, they take seriously their own capabilities to help their neighbors. We are grateful for both their gift and their wonderful example.”

Broadaway, a UWA ambassador and a member of the Stars of Alabama dance team, Phi Mu sorority, and several honor societies, is the daughter of Lori Chapman.

She says this scholarship is a tremendous help as she balances her studies, an on-campus job and extracurriculars.

“I come from a single-parent household, and I’ve worked hard to maintain my grades while helping support my education,” the Marengo Academy graduate said.

“I hope to be an ambassador for this scholarship, letting high school students know that you can be successful no matter where you come from,” continued Broadaway, who plans to earn her doctorate and serve as a UWA English professor. Holmes, a first-generation college student who lives with her mother and grandmother, also expressed her gratitude for the financial assistance.

“I am free to focus on my classes and making the adjustment to college life, instead of worrying about paying for school,” said Holmes, a Demopolis High School graduate who is excited about getting involved at UWA while studying to become a clinical laboratory technician.