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Dinner to raise funds for Riverside scholarships

POSTED: August 7, 2014 12:35 a.m.

Riverside Military Academy is working to create a scholarship fund for potential students who cannot afford the boarding school’s tuition and room and board.

Amanda Griffin, vice president of advancement for the school, said the cost is around $30,000 per year, which means the school is out of reach for some students — but she is hoping the new scholarship initiative will make it more accessible.

Each year, she said, there are a number of candidates who have “varying amounts of need.”

“We want these boys,” she said. “They’re qualified, eager; they really want to be here.”

The school is using $100,000 in seed funding raised through the efforts of 1956 alumnus Walter E. Smith Jr. to begin what school officials hope will become a long-lasting resource for potential cadets in need of tuition assistance.

Riverside has established an entrepreneurial award and fundraising program for scholarships in the name of Sandy Beaver, a past Riverside president who Griffin said is remembered for his entrepreneurial vision and leadership.

The school provides college preparatory education using a military structure to boys in seventh through 12th grades. Last year, 487 cadets were enrolled in the school, which has the capacity for 500 cadets.

Cadets come from Georgia, throughout the United States and around the world, Griffin said. Historically, she said, 26 percent of cadets have come to Riverside from other countries.

The first Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award will be presented during a fundraising dinner on Aug. 14.

This year, the school will honor local entrepreneur Frank K. Norton Sr. and posthumously honor Joe S. Hatfield.

Norton is a second-generation entrepreneur who worked to grow the Norton real estate agency established by his father, W.L. Norton Sr.

“He is known for seeing an opportunity in terms of either (establishing a) development or bringing a development back from the edge,” Griffin said.

Hatfield was a co-founder of Fieldale Farms, which became a major poultry producer and one of Gainesville’s top employers.

“He is credited with helping put Gainesville on the map as the poultry capital of the world,” Griffin said.

She said the fundraising goal for this year’s dinner is $25,000, which, with the money raised by Smith, would give the school $125,000 to invest in order to build a more substantial fund.

“It’s where we can start and where we can grow from,” Griffin said. “It’s a small beginning that can have lasting benefits.”

Once fully established, Griffin said, the Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Program will be “the type of program that will sustain Riverside for years.”

Griffin said the school has a few facility needs, but the need for scholarship funding is by far the greater one.

“Since the Great Recession, numerous prospective cadets’ parents, who either remain out of work or are underemployed, lack the financial resources to pay Riverside’s tuition,” Riverside President James H. Benson, a retired colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps, said in a written statement.

He said the school has been active in its fundraising efforts, but “the financial aid needs of our Riverside community exceed $2 million annually, and we do not have nearly that amount of funded aid to offer. That is what makes the creation of this fundraising program targeted specifically to provide financial aid so important.”

The school plans to raise funds at the dinner through ticket sales, individual donations and corporate sponsorship. Tickets are $75.

The event, which will be held at Alumni Hall on Riverside’s campus, will begin with a cocktail reception followed by dinner, dessert and music along with the presentation of the entrepreneurial leadership award.


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