Jeremy Wallen is the first firefighter to get financial aid from Augusta State University's Firefighters Scholarship Fund.
But he won't be the last. At least that's the hope of Debra van Tuyll and her students, who worked hard to make the class project possible.
Van Tuyll, an associate professor of communications at Augusta State, asked her fall 2002 Communications Campaigns class to come up with a campaign that could be implemented.
"I wanted to raise at least $5,000," van Tuyll said. "That was my ultimate goal when we first started it, to have something to give to a firefighter."
Though Wallen is already using his $250-per-year scholarship, it will be officially awarded to him Friday at the Martinez fire station on Washington Road. By next year, applicants will be eligible to receive $500 annually, van Tuyll said.
Wallen, 29, has worked full-time for the Martinez Fire Department for 11 years. He started as a dispatcher, moved to firefighting and took over the department's finances in 2001.
He spent some time at Augusta State a few years ago studying business and returned this fall as a computer science major, attending classes four nights and one afternoon a week.
Four applicants applied for the scholarship, which is a good response for its first year, van Tuyll said. Each applicant had to write an essay describing why they deserved the award. An independent committee led by faculty members from other departments made the decision.
Wallen said in his essay that he is studying computer science and technology because "this is where fire service is going. I want to be in a position to show others they can do it."
To raise the money, van Tuyll's students contacted people around the CSRA for donations and held fund-raisers.
Wallen, who attended many of the events as the campaign's representative firefighter, often stood with a Dalmatian collecting donations that would benefit Richmond and Columbia County firefighters and their families.
"The neat thing about it is that even before he knew he was coming back to school, he volunteered to help us any way he could with this campaign," van Tuyll said. "So whenever we had special events and needed a firefighter with us for visibility, he's been there. He never knew he would be getting anything out of it."
Though they raised a good chunk of change that semester, it was not enough for the $10,000 it took to endow a scholarship, van Tuyll said.
So, the fund-raising responsibility passed on to her spring 2003 class. They served breakfast to fellow students, held concerts around town and informed local firefighters of the upcoming opportunity.
During their campaign, students set the scholarship's guidelines to include a minimum 2.0 grade-point average and no requirements for minimum hours enrolled, which caters to the firefighters' busy lifestyles.
"The hour requirements are great," Wallen said. "Honestly, that is why I don't have anything else. (No other financial aid) applies to me because I am not in school full-time."
Wallen said he is appreciative of the scholarship but also is proud of his involvement in its formation.
"Actually, working with all the different students, that is what made it more of an honor to get," Wallen said. "They did it all by choice. That is respectable and makes me feel honored."
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