Sarah Withem – LHS 2018

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Sarah Withem is our Lufkin High School scholarship recipient this year.  What a lovely young woman…in body and spirit.  Very friendly, warm and open.  She laughed often, has a big, genuine smile and that reminded me of Lauren.  We enjoyed getting to know her after pictures were made.  She is active in her church and helps teach 2nd grade boys…she is brave…lol.  She will be living on campus and plans to join the Baptist Student Union to make more friends and be with other Christian students.  She will be working part-time to help pay for her schooling.  She wants to be a Speech Language Pathologist.

After being notified of the scholarship Sarah wrote a really thoughtful thank you note to us.  In it she said, “I feel very fortunate to have been chosen as the recipient of a scholarship that believes in love, action and faith.  Those three words drive my life, and I admire this foundation for standing behind those concepts.” 20180516_153433-1She took the initiative to look up Lauren, our foundation and learn about us.  Wow…that says a lot about her character and her heart.  I have no doubt we chose well this year.  She is special and her parents should be proud of her…they have raised a lovely, young woman.

Cristina Williams ~ LHS 2017

Met Cristina Williams our recipient for Lufkin High School 2017.  We enjoyed getting to know Cristina during “picture time” before the awards ceremony.  She is a very quite, respectful young lady…matter of fact I think we scared her with how talkative and loud we can be…but she got used to us peppering her with questions and our laughter.   She is in the LHS band and plays the clarinet and is thinking of trying for the SFA Band.  She is already a CNA and has plans to work her summers and then concentrate on school during the semesters.  Her family has had some health issues and that has steered her toward her chosen path.  She is going to start the Pre-Med program and major in Biology from there she wants to go to Baylor and become an Anesthesiologist.  She then wants to come back to work in Lufkin and to also start a youth program to help keep kids on track to achieve their goals and dreams.

Here is part of her thank you note:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Alston,  

It is an honor to receive the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship.  Mr and Mrs Alston I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I understand how important this scholarship is and I promise that the name Lauren Alston will forever live with me, as I attend SFA, in this cruel yet beautiful world.  I am glad you gave me the chance to achieve my goals.  I thank you for lifting this financial burden that almost stopped me from pursuing my dreams.  I thank you for putting your faith in me.  It is good to know that there are good and kind people still left in the world. 

So once again I thank you, Cristina Williams

My 35th HS Reunion

lufkin-panIt is hard to believe it has been 35 years since I graduated from Lufkin High School.  A lot has happened to me in those 35 years…mostly good things…married for 33 laughter filled years, 2 healthy children, lots of travel adventures, successful businesses, and more… but one terribly sad, hard, difficult thing…the loss of my daughter Lauren.

Her 10 year high school reunion was this year….and it brings up several memories.  I also graduated from Lufkin High School…in the Class of 1981.  Ten years ago for the celebration of our 25th graduation anniversary, the class decided to give out a college scholarship to a deserving LHS graduating senior.  Out of all those who applied, you guessed it, Lauren was picked as that student.  What a great honor for her and I was so proud for her to be chosen by my class…I was tickled pink about it…or should I say purple as that is one of our school colors.  I believe she lived up to that honor…she worked hard and graduated from SFA in the class of 2006, Cum Laude with a BS in Hospitality Management.   That is one of the proudest and most special memories I have of her.

Another memory is of a classmate of mine from the Class of 1981.  Her name was Jennifer Estes and she passed away in 1984, just 3 short years after our graduation.  She was a Business major at Sam Houston State University and had a car wreck on her way home one weekend.  At the time I remember thinking about how her life was cut short, how she would never get married and have children, how close she was to getting her degree, how her family must feel in dealing with the loss of their child and sister, the shockingly, unexpected, suddenness of her death…. and how do you go on with your life when you lose a child.  Jennifer was a Senior in college and just 21…so…was…Lauren.  I never imagined I would be in the same position as Jennifer’s Mom.

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We give out at least one $1000 scholarship each year through the Lufkin High School Alumni Association. You can look at pictures of past recipients under the heading of LAF Recipients: LHS.  We gave out the first scholarship just 2 months after Lauren’s passing and will continue for life.  We have a “To Donate Online” button in the headings of this site if you ever wish to help us continue that legacy.  Thank you… and Go Panthers.

 

 

Ms. Elizabeth Foreman ~ 2016 LHS

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Meet Elizabeth Foreman our 2016 Lufkin High School Scholarship Recipient.  Elizabeth will be attending SFA this fall.  She will be commuting the first year and is looking forward to joining and being active in the Baptist Student Union.  She is majoring in Secondary Education and minor in Mathematics.  She loves numbers and wants to teach High School math.  From there she wants to take night and online classes to obtain a Master’s Degree in Education Leadership with the idea of becoming a Principal should the opportunity arise.

We have no doubt she will obtain her goals and go far in life.  In her thank you note she said, “I have always striven for greater and to make an impact on people’s lives.  I am going to work very hard these next few years so that I am able to eventually give back, as a teacher and possibly a scholarship to future students just like myself.”

Ms. Whitney Scott ~ SFA 2016-17

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Bryan, Whitney Scott, Suzanne. SFA Ax’em Jacks

Meet Whitney Scott, our SFA recipient for they school year 2016-17.  We were able to met Whitney at the beginning of the year because we went to the School of Human Sciences Honor Convocation on April 12th and presented her with the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship in person.  The SFA Scholarship Star Alumni  Reception is usually when we met our recipient and is held at the end of the school term.  We were excited to get the opportunity to met Whitney at the beginning of her term.  We met her and visited before the start of the program and then met her parents after the program and visited additionally as a group.  When I saw her I quickly noticed her James Avery ring and commented on it.  I told her about Lauren’s love for JA jewelry and showed her the pieces I wear everyday that were Lauren’s.  She then pointed out her JA Texas shaped necklace that  had SFA engraved on it.  I told her part of why we chose her was because of her essay about living with dyslexia and what she had to do to get into SFA…her grades had to be improved. Her determination to attend SFA, after a visit with her sister who is a graduate student, impressed me and I wanted to reward her for her hard work.   She said she is enjoys math and is great at it but her spelling is bad…she gets her letters messed up but not her numbers.  We told her being able to balance her checkbook is an important skill in life…lol.  Whitney asked me about Lauren and wanted to know more about her…that warmed my heart.  She told me she was interested in being an event planner and wanted to know what Lauren had wanted to do…event planning.  She and Lauren shared many things in common…love SFA…go Jacks, James Avery jewelry, Chinese food, event planning and both were super friendly and smiled a lot.  We really enjoyed meeting Whitney and her parents, who came from Ft Worth…her Dad said there was a connection and that it felt like we had known them for years.  We will see Whitney again when she works the Culinary Cafe next spring.  Her thank you note said she would make us proud for honoring her with Lauren’s scholarship…I have no doubt she will do just that.

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Suzanne, Bryan, Whitney and Dr. Judy Abbott, Dean of College of Education

Mr. Brandon Chaddick ~ SFA ~ 2015-16

20160412_173948 Last week we went to the School of Human Sciences Honors Convocation at SFA.  We had the pleasure of meeting one of our two recipients for this school year.  We were able to meet Mr. Brandon Chaddick.  He was there to receive another memorial scholarship for this coming school year.  We were able to visit with him after the ceremony.  His parents were there and we “stole” him away for a little visiting and pictures.  He was so happy to meet us as he hadn’t had the opportunity yet to meet any other of his donors for this past school year.  He was such a humble and thankful young man.  He smiled a lot and told us many times during our conversation how thankful and appreciative he was for receiving the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship.  Brandon will be a Senior this coming year and will be working the Culinary Cafe this fall where we plan to catch up with him again during a dinner or lunch on campus.  Lauren also participated in the Culinary Cafe class for a semester.  If you ever have the opportunity to go you will be quite impressed.  The students plan the menu, help cook, serve the meal and decorate the tables according to the theme of the meal.  The food is always delish and visually appealing, the students do a fantastic job.

 

Below is just a few paragraphs from his last thank you letter dated Jan. 5, 2016.

“As I approached the Fall 2015 semester at SFA, I was a bit unsure of how I would be able to afford all of my classes for the semester, as I was placed with the formidable task of funding and completing 16 course hours.  Fortunately, I was given the ability  to afford my classes through scholarship funds donated by generous individuals such as yourselves.  Thus, after receiving the scholarship, I made sure that the resources provided to me would not go to waste,  I buckled down, studied hard, and for the first time in two semesters, received an “A” in all of my courses.

Overall, my experiences in my last semester proved to me that hard work pays off and can sometimes even be rewarded. It truly is the least that I can do, as the amount of money provided by your donation has been both substantial and vital to my continued education.

Once, again, I am genuinely humbled by having the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship bestowed upon me and I truly hope that I am continuing the make you proud of my achievements, which would be far more difficult to attain had I not been provided with financial assistance.  From the bottom of my hear, I am truly thankful.”    Sincerely, Brandon Chaddick 

Two Updates

We have 2 exciting updates to tell you about.

First…we had $792 more in donations given to us in the last few weeks.  We are so thankful because that means we can help more students with college scholarships or more young adults going a mission trip or more children with new backpacks or ???…the possibilities are numerous …to make a difference in someone’s life.  Thank you for your help in continuing Lauren’s legacy of helping others.

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Second…we have an update on one of our Lufkin High School recipients.  Lauren Taylor Hancock graduated in 2011 and is attending Stephen F. Austin State University.  She lives in Nacogdoches, is a senior and will be graduating in May of 2016.  She was a Twirl-O-Jack for her first two years of college and she feels that helped her to stay connected and feel apart of something after high school.  “College can be lonely and that time I had to be involved really helped shape who I am and the decisions I made about my future” she said.  Her major is Family and Consumer Sciences with a focus in Hospitality, Nutrition and Food Science.  Her minor is in Secondary Education.  Her passion is to educate and teach students from middle school to high school to understand the science behind the food they eat and how to be a great cook.  She is President of her student organization and they do events related to family and community such as Toy for Tots and Thanksgiving Home Bound food baskets.  Lauren said “Thank you for the head start you gave me in college.  Both of you are so generous for keeping the scholarship going in Lauren’s honor.”

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Amy Murray, LHS recipient from 2010 and Lauren Taylor Hancock, LHS recipient 2011.

 

Team Fundraiser $2135

(Please click on each picture to read the captions)

Team Peace, Love, LAF

Julie Alston, Ragin Cornelius, Robin & Brody Hamil, Russell Harvey, Tracy Portwood, Bryan & Suzanne Alston

On a cold Sunday morning, November 15, 2015, a group of dedicated friends participated in the East Texas Half Marathon, to raise scholarship funds for the Lauren Alston Foundation.  I can’t say enough about my group of friends…it moves me and humbles me that they want to help continue Lauren’s legacy of helping others.  That they gave their time, energy, money, lots of sweat, a couple of tears and some pushed their bodies further than normal and some started with injuries.  They came from Austin, Corrigan, Lufkin and Yoakum to participate in this run in Nacogdoches.  This is the second year for Team Peace, Love, LAF.  Ragin came to Bryan and I last year about making this a fundraiser run for LAF.  We hope you will join us in November 2016.

Ragin and Russell were the two brave souls who participated in the half marathon…that is 13.1 miles folks.  The race started at 7:30 am…but they had to be there about 1 hr earlier to park, warm up their legs and then race…on top of driving 30 minutes to get there.  Ragin is a seasoned runner but was dealing with shin splints, from his training, before he even started the race…but he pushed himself those last few miles and finished.  Russell just started running last year before this race/fundraiser.  Russell ran the 5K last year but challenged himself and moved up to the half marathon this year.  He enjoys running 8-9 miles most days but pushed through to complete his first half marathon…for Team P, L, LAF.  I am so proud of these guys…they took on the hardest part…the bigger challenge!!  They rock…they are awesome…they have huge hearts!!…and nice legs from running…lol.

Now us 5K’ers are another story…lol…we are walkers…not runners.  We also aren’t early risers…especially on cold, rainy mornings…thank goodness the rain stopped before the Half’ers got started.  The 5K race started at 7:45 am…but we had decided beforehand to have our “own” start at 8:30 am.  For two reasons…we aren’t early risers…yes, I’m saying it again…and we wanted to finish sometime close to when Ragin and Russell would be finishing their Half.  So Tracy, Brody, Robin, Bryan, I and Julie, our sister-in law, who was able to join us last minute…started our 3.1 mile walk or stroll.  We enjoyed visiting with each other, cheering on the Half’ers we passed… who were running toward us on the route and we got to see Ragin and Russell whom we “high fived”…looking at the houses in the neighborhood we passed through and commenting on all the clothes thrown on the sides of the road.  I guess some runners shed their clothes as they got hot and would later come back to get them.  We could have had some really nice jackets, gloves, t-shirts and leg warmers had we picked up all the items we saw.  Too bad there wasn’t any warm-up pants…cause someone in our group was walking in his fleecy pajama bottoms…I won’t name you Bryan Alston…and could have changed along the way…lol.   We finished in under an hour…barely…but we weren’t in it for an “official” race time…just the company….6 across the line.  We weren’t there but maybe 15-20 minutes when Ragin showed up across the finish line….Yay, 7 cross the line!!  Then we were looking for Russell, who we knew was struggling just a bit that last mile.  And because you never leave a man behind, Ragin went back to run with him across the line…the friendship, encouragement and Russell’s perseverance brought tears to our eyes…we all loudly cheered him on.  YAY!!! All 8 of Team Peace, Love, LAF had finished…we were together and hugging it out.  Again…I am so proud of this team!!  And a “shout out”… of thanks… to our cheer team of Kathy, Elise, Sharron and Roy Dean!

Because of this Team and all of their gracious sponsors…22 fabulous Supporters from Texas, Florida, Alabama and even Japan…we raised $2135 for scholarships.  Thank You…Thank You…Thank you all!!

We are so thankful to the Runners, Walkers and the Sponsors for your support.  We hope to continue this fundraiser next year and would love for more people to join us…yes, you reading this.  You can Run…Walk…Skip…Hula Hoop it…we don’t care…just join us…in mid November 2016…you know you want one of those cute Team t-shirts.

Our love to all…we are blessed by you.  Happy Thanksgiving.

We chose two again

2010-12-09_09-03-59.450We chose two recipients again this year for the Lauren Alston Memorial Scholarship in Hospitality.  Adrianna Damani and Samantha Harris both impressed us with their heartfelt essays and excellent grades.  Although they both sent eloquent thank you notes I wanted to share Samantha’ s note with everyone as she will be graduating in December.

August 22, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. Alston,

My name is Samantha Harris, and I am the grateful recipient of the Lauren Alston Scholarship.  I am a Hospitality Administration major heading into my senior semester at Stephen F. Austin State University, from Ft Worth.  After graduation in December, I plan on moving to Lewisville, Texas with my husband, and pursuing a career in event management.

 2014 has been a year of ups and downs for me.  In April, my husband and I decided to get married at the Fort Worth Medical Plaza ICU when my dad’s health took a serious decline, and we lost him shortly after.  The loss I felt, and still feel, is indescribable.  Afterwards, the thought of leaving my mom and sister behind to come back and finish school was almost depressing.  I even considered transferring to a school closer to home, but I knew my dad would want me to come back and finish, especially so close to graduation.  While growing up, my grandfather didn’t give my dad the support he needed to go to college expecting him to follow in his footsteps and take over the family air conditioning business.  It was something my dad regretted immensely because it put up so many road blocks as he went through life.  Because of this he always reiterated the importance of a college education, and that no matter what, he would make sure that we both had the ability to make a living and support ourselves.

Your support through this scholarship for my last semester is not only allowing me to fulfill my dream of a college degree, but also my dad’s dream for me.  You have taken a weight off both my shoulders and my mom’s, and for that I am eternally grateful.

With great appreciation,

Samantha Harris

And Samantha that makes us happy also.  We strive to reach out and help others as Lauren did.  We give scholarships in her memory, to give back as she also received scholarships, to help others fulfill their dreams of a college degree like she was able to achieve and also so she isn’t forgotten.  God bless you on your life’s journey and please lend someone else a hand along the way.

Mrs. Sophia Carbajal ~ SFA 2013-14

We were out-of-town in March when the SFA Scholarship Stars awards social was scheduled.  So we asked Bryan’s parents to attend, in our place, and meet Mrs. Sophia Carbajal.  Yes, she is a married student and our first one.  I know how tough that can be because I also attended SFA while I was married.  The Alston’s enjoyed getting to know her and expressed how friendly she was to them.  She was about to graduate and was excited about what her future held.

 

Mrs. Sophia Carbajal SFA 2013-14 Recipient

Mrs. Sophia Carbajal
SFA 2013-14 Recipient

This all probably seems a little backwards…but for SFA you pick the recipient at the beginning of the year and then get to meet them at the end of the year. The student gets money each semester so they send a note each time.   Bellow is part of what she wrote in her January thank you note:

“Again I would truly like to thank you for your generous gifts.  I am so thrilled to be beginning my last semester at SFA.  I still have not made my final decision yet of what my plans are after college.  I know that there are so many opportunities available in my field.  I do plan to spend some time exploring those and maybe even go for my master’s degree.

I thank you for awarding me with your scholarship and for this chance to reach for the stars.  But mostly for believing in me and fellow students like me.  I hope that some day I can become an inspiration too and have the ability to help students who are looking to reach for their stars.”

Sophia has on her Hospitality chef’s coat, showing the Ax’em Jacks sign and is standing in front of a few of the plaques of endowed scholarships, one of which is Lauren’s.  Sophia works in the Alumni Office, where the Wall of Honor is, and we plan to go meet her soon.