Verbena author Calhoun creates scholarship

Author and educator Victoria Calhoun of Verbena has always given back to the community in the form of teaching and writing, and has recently endeavored to create a scholarship for students who share her vision for community improvement.

In December 2014, Calhoun established the Peoples-Calhoun Writer’s Scholarship to reward local students who exemplify a desire to improve the communities of either Chilton or Dallas counties.

The $250 awards, accumulated through royalties from Calhoun’s books, were awarded to Donovan Cleckley of Chilton County and Whitney Denson of Dallas County for use in the 2015-2016 school year.

Calhoun currently teaches English/Language Arts at Martin Middle School in Dallas County. Her two books, “I Died, but I Shall Live,” and “Winning on Purpose” were published in 2012 and 2014, and offer a positive message of God’s salvation in a time of grief.

A 1996 graduate of Verbena High School, Calhoun earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Mass Communication from the University of Montevallo, a master’s degree in English/Language Arts from Alabama State University, and an Ed.S. (Educational Specialist) degree from North Central University.

Calhoun also teaches in the Upward Bound Program at the University of Montevallo, where she has served Chilton, Shelby and Bibb County high school students.

According to Calhoun, she’s always wanted to be able to give back to the communities that have supported her during her lifetime.

“The money made from my books helps me give back to the communities I’ve lived and worked in,” Calhoun said. “I wanted to do something that would help students who’ve been involved in the community. I originally planned to choose one recipient, but I couldn’t, so I chose two.”

Cleckley, a senior at Isabella High School, will be attending the University of Montevallo in the fall and plans to study English/Language Arts.

“English is one of my favorite subjects,” Cleckley said. “I aspire to encourage people to work their hardest and pursue their dreams whether I end up writing as an author or leading students as a teacher.”

Cleckley is a participant of the Upward Bound Program at UM in which Calhoun teaches.

“Mrs. Calhoun was extremely helpful during my time in the Upward Bound program,” Cleckley said.

Denson, a native of Valley Grande and intern at The Clanton Advertiser, is a senior at the University of Montevallo.

“There are very few scholarships available for students in this area,” Denson said. “Not many people recognize public service as much as academics, so I’m glad Mrs. Calhoun emphasized that.”

Denson shared that Calhoun was an influential factor in her decision to study English.

“She definitely sparked my love for literature as a high-school student,” Denson said.

Calhoun said she plans to make the scholarship annual, and applications for the 2015-2016 scholarship will be available in October.

Scholarship applicants should be a high school student or graduate of a Title I school from either Chilton or Dallas County. They must attend or have plans to attend the University of Montevallo or Alabama State University.

Applicants must also declare a major in any of the following areas: English/Language Arts, Journalism, or Mass Communications.

For more information on the Peoples-Calhoun Writer’s Scholarship, contact Calhoun at victoria.peoples@yahoo.com.