Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 11, 2009

Summer enrichment at OUS

Teacher and Columbus woman help students get scholarships for excellence

Ironton — A Raceland-Worthington High School teacher is teaming with a Columbus woman to ease the way for some area children to attend a summer enrichment program at Ohio University Southern.

Tom Collins is the teacher, and he wants to help students go to the Academy of Excellence, which offers a week of educational fun activities in July and August on the OUS campus.

He is working with Emily Douglas, who lives in Columbus but has strong ties to the Tri-State. Douglas, 26, is the founder of Grandma’s Gifts, a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of assistance to children in various Appalachian communities.

It’s an organization Douglas created when she was 11 in memory of her grandmother, Norma Ackison of Ironton. It was her grandmother’s stories of childhood privation and her constant efforts to help local children and families that prompted Douglas to launch her philanthropic career.

Since its founding the organization has grown dramatically and has provided some $12 million in goods and services to families and organizations in Appalachian Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Tennessee.

Another of Douglas’ grandparents was the late Bill Douglas of Ironton, a longtime employee of The Independent’s composing department.

Douglas and Collins want to provide scholarships that will cover the cost of the program for 20 students. It won’t be the first time Grandma’s Gifts has helped send students to the academy; the organization has been doing that for a decade, Douglas said.

What is different this time is Collins is networking with others in the northeast Kentucky education community to raise money and refer children who would benefit from the program but can’t afford it.

Collins read about Douglas in a newspaper story and saw parallels with his own grandmother and his West Virginia background. So he called Douglas and offered to help out.

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