In recognition of their son and the special education teachers who worked with him, Frostburg residents Kathy and Fred Powell have created a new scholarship through the Frostburg State University Foundation, Inc.: the Joshua Powell Special Education Scholarship Fund.
The new scholarship was established to support FSU graduate education students with a major in special education and is named for their son, Joshua, who was born with a degenerative neurological disorder and received assistance from special education teachers throughout the 14 years he was alive. He passed away in April 2006.
Joshua enjoyed a world that came to life with color, light, movement and sound, thanks to special education teachers who worked with him daily and were often students or graduates of Frostburg State University’s education program. When he was a baby, they would slip booties adorned with bells on his feet so that when he shifted them, he would start to understand how his movements were connected to the bright, cheerful ringing he heard. They also showed him toys that could light up or make noises with the flip of switch, teaching him how his environment could change. He was able to experience what different textures felt like because they gave him different objects to touch with his hands: a rough sponge, a paint roller, sandpaper.
“They were an integral part of our life with Josh,” Fred said.
These positive experiences with Josh’s teachers inspired the Powells to find a way to support special education at FSU. Kathy, an associate professor in FSU’s Department of Social Work, knows firsthand how designating funds for specific areas of learning can foster growth in the field, and she hopes their new scholarship also meets this goal.
“We wanted to make this scholarship available to those who are choosing careers in special education, not by default, but because they are committed to children who need specialized services in order to learn and to grow,” she said. “Those professionals are deserving of our support as a way of saying thanks for the help we received during Josh’s lifetime.”
Dr. Oma-Gail Simmons, an associate professor in FSU’s Department of Educational Professions whose teaching focuses on special education, couldn’t be happier about the new fund.
“Scholarships to support training in special education are a tremendous, thoughtful and significant contribution to the field,” she said. “Often teacher candidates would like to continue their post-graduate training in this field but do not have the funds to take courses in a full-time or comprehensive manner. Having scholarship monies available for these professionals helps assure their completion of the program and the availability of these special educators to local schools.”
The Powells, both long-time community advocates who own Main Street Books, are also specifically interested in fostering special education in Allegany County. They hope that FSU students who benefit from the fund consider staying in the area to pursue their careers.
“This is an underserved area; the Board of Education didn’t always have special education teachers available to work with our son,” Fred said. “We felt it was important to keep these special education teachers in the pipeline, in the community.”
For more information about supporting the Joshua Powell Special Education Scholarship Fund, contact Jack Aylor at the FSU Foundation, Inc., at (301) 687-4161. Application for the scholarship is made through the FSU Financial Aid Office, (301) 687-4301. For more information about the University, visit www.frostburg.edu.