Brenau Scholar, first Brenau Dreams Scholarship recipients recognized

Freshmen Jennifer Elias and Lin Ngo were recently recognized as the first recipients of Brenau University’s new Brenau Dreams Scholarship, while freshman Savannah “Maeve” Auchmoedy was named a Brenau Scholar for the 2021-22 academic year.

Lin Ngo. (Photo by Kelsey Podo/Brenau University)

The Brenau Dreams Scholarship was created for first-generation college students in Hall County. To be chosen for the Brenau Scholars Program, students must excel in academics, community service and extracurricular activities. Both scholarships cover the full cost of tuition and are renewable each year as long as recipients continue to meet academic requirements.

“With the Brenau Dreams Scholarship, we wanted to give back to the community that Brenau has been a part of since 1878 by dedicating an award to students in our county,” says Redenna Poole, assistant vice president for enrollment management. “The applicants wrote an essay that basically asked, ‘What would winning this scholarship do for your dreams?’ The responses were amazing.”

For her entry, Elias, a graduate of Gainesville High School, wrote about how the scholarship would help her pay for college after her parents died in January.

“My essay was about how this scholarship would help my siblings and me,” Elias says. “I wrote about how I had to help my 22-year-old sister support her son and our three younger siblings. This scholarship can open a lot of opportunities for all of us. I live two minutes away from Brenau so I can go to school and be close to my family.”

Elias says she is thankful for Brenau in helping her be able to earn a college degree.

“It’s an honor to be the first recipient of the Brenau Dreams Scholarship,” Elias says. “I know my parents are proud of me.”

Auchmoedy, a graduate of Warner Robins High School who is majoring in theatre, says she decided to attend Brenau after hearing stories from her cousin Caitlin Cavanaugh, WC ̕16.

“Caitlin sat me down and said, ‘You’re not going to find anywhere better,’” Auchmoedy says. “I saw the Brenau Scholar scholarship and figured I’d apply. It just seemed like everything fell into place, and I felt like I was meant to be here. I feel like Brenau is one of those places that if you weren’t meant to be here, someone will make sure you are.”

Having spent most of her childhood in Bình Minh, Vietnam, Ngo says she learned not to take for granted the educational opportunities in the U.S. When she was offered a Brenau Dreams Scholarship a few days before fall semester classes started, she didn’t hesitate. 

“I want to go to medical school,” says Ngo, a West Hall High School graduate who is majoring in biology. “Brenau has a good reputation, and everybody told me to just go for it.”

Ngo is unsure of the type of doctor she wants to become, but she’s confident in one thing: her passion for helping others. 

This inspiration sparked when she was 8 years old. Ngo had an eye infection — later diagnosed as a cataract — and traveled with her parents to several eye doctors to seek assistance. Knowing little English, Ngo and her family had difficulty expressing the issue. 

Ngo says one clinic in Gainesville made her feel safe and comforted, despite the language barrier. Now, on the path to medical school, she hopes to do the same for others.

“I definitely feel like I have the heart to help somebody in need,” Ngo says. “I want to comfort them as much as I can and just make them feel safe, even if they don’t speak English and don’t understand me.”

Brenau President Anne Skleder says the scholarship recipients “will become some of our best and brightest leaders at this university.”

“We are so grateful to have them, and Brenau will be better for having them here,” Skleder says.

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