November 9, 2022
From the passion of a first-year student, the Costumes for a Cause 5K and 1-mile fun run was born. The inaugural run was held November 5 at the Forrest County Campus of Pearl River Community College with the goal to help raise funds for those who have been through the foster care system.
In total, the inaugural event raised $1,328. This money has the opportunity to go toward creating pathways of success for future PRCC students in need.
Britney Diaz-Roman attends PRCC on the Forrest County Campus (FCC) where she is studying to become an occupational therapist assistant. As the child of an adult learner, she saw first-hand the importance of education for an individual and the family.
According to The National Foster Youth Institute, only about half of the youth raised in foster care end up finishing high school. Less than 5% graduate from a four-year college and between 2 to 6% complete a degree from a two-year college.
“Establishing a new scholarship on our campus is one way we can help these youth,” said Diaz-Roman. “The scholarship money raised by the 5K and 1-mile fun run goes directly to the scholarship recipient. This means PRCC will welcome the community and students to the campus every year to promote health through the run, raise awareness about foster care, and raise money.”
To get things started, she approached Dr. Greg Underwood, Dean of Academic Instruction, with the idea of helping the community while highlighting PRCC. By funding a scholarship for PRCC students who spent time in the foster care system, some of the financial barriers keeping them from continuing their education can be dropped.
“We are happy to serve our constituents by creating opportunities that remove barriers for all of our students to succeed, especially those who have experience with the foster care system,” said Underwood. “At the same time, the Costumes for a Cause race was an excellent opportunity to showcase our campus and people such as Ms. Diaz-Roman and Mr. Bennett to the larger community. It was truly a win-win for all involved.”
Zac Bennett, Coordinator of Wellness and Student Activities at FCC, served as the main coordinator of Costumes for a Cause and spent time recruiting the initial sponsors. Those sponsoring the event included Eagle Flatts, Magnolia Construction Company, Bank First, and USM’s chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho.
“I am so grateful for the support we have received in our inaugural 5K,” said Bennett. “We hope to continue to grow this event for years to come as a way to empower our Wildcat community. Thank you to everyone who participated in any way in the creation of this event from conceptualizing the 5k, sponsoring, or running in the race.
“This could not have been accomplished without everyone pitching in to help. It truly takes a village, and I think we have the best village around!”
Representatives of the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services attended to bring awareness of the foster care system and their current needs. Two of the ladies also donned numbers and participated in the 1-mile fun run.
“We have more children than we have homes,” said Licenser Specialist Tiechie Fenton. “Our unit goes out to community events to actively recruit more foster families. There is a high need for homes to house sibling groups and older children.”
Anyone interested in applying to become a foster parent can find information at mdcps.ms.gov.
RESULTS AND THE FUTURE OF COSTUMES FOR A CAUSE
Four individuals were recognized after the race concluded. Allison Hanby of Hattiesburg was the overall winner with a time of 22.36. The first female winner was Olivia Parker of Sumrall at 23.31 and the first male winner was Trevor Clark of Hattiesburg at 24.30. The Best Costume for a participant was awarded to Kelly Devoe of Hattiesburg who dressed up as Flo, the insurance girl.
The individuals involved in launching Costumes for a Cause are optimistic that it will grow each year. While a date has not been set yet for 2023, the committee plans to hold it again in the fall.
“There are approximately 4,000 youth in Mississippi’s foster care system,” said Diaz-Roman. “We can act in small ways like walking or running a mile to help provide a bright future for these youth.”
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE SCHOLARSHIP
Community members who would like to donate to this scholarship can do so online, by phone, or by mail. Online donations can be made at prcc.edu/alumni/donate where you can select general scholarships and put “Dr. Cecil Burt Scholarship for Fostering Educational Opportunities” in the comment box.
Phone donations can be made by calling the PRCC Development Foundation at 601-403-1183. Alternatively, checks can be mailed to PRCC Development Foundation at PO Box 5389 Poplarville, MS 39470. Please make sure to note Dr. Cecil Burt Scholarship for Fostering Educational Opportunities on the check.
HOW TO START A SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Anyone interested in starting a scholarship fund can start the process through an online form at prcc.edu/alumni/scholarship. The scholarship can be named and have specific criteria for the eligibility of students for the award. Fully funding a scholarship requires a minimum of $10,000 that can be delivered over time or in a lump sum.
Questions about the process can be directed to Executive Director of Development Foundation/Alumni Association Delana Harris at email@example.com.
Article and photography by Laura O’Neill.