Two local students have received the prestigious Berry College Gate of Opportunity Scholarship.

William Hulsey, a Model High School graduate, and Marquedon “TJ” Watkins, a Pepperell High School graduate, begin their college career at Berry this summer.

The Gate of Opportunity Scholarship is a highly competitive, four-year, residential, year-around scholarship that keeps students working at a part-time rate while taking classes during the fall and springs semesters and at a full-time rate during the summers and breaks. Over the course of four years, Gate Scholars work 4,500 total hours to help pay for their education. This three-way partnership between the family, the college and a donor allows the student the opportunity to graduate debt free and with the skills to succeed beyond the gates of Berry.

“The work program will help me to become a stronger team communicator and potentially give me more leadership opportunities. These, of course, are vital for a job as an engineer,” said Hulsey, who intends to pursue the dual-degree engineering program in partnership with Georgia Tech.

Hulsey volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, was a mentor at Johnson Elementary School and a tutor at Model Elementary. As a young entrepreneur, Hulsey ran the Model High School Coffee Shop as a manager through FBLA.

“Receiving the Gate Scholarship is such an honor for me. My parents have always instilled the idea to me of working for what you want in life. In this case, what I want is to go to college, and the Gate Scholarship provides me with the funds to do so,” he said.

Hulsey is a first-generation college student wary of jumping into a university with huge class sizes so the idea of pursing an education at Berry before heading to Georgia Tech was too good to pass up.

“I love the fact that Berry is a liberal arts college,” Hulsey said. “Not only do I get to go to my engineer dream college, but I also get that more individual attention to further prepare me for the rest of college.”

Watkins was an active member in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes program at Pepperell where he was an FCA Leadership Member at his high school and the Floyd County Council. He was also a member of the Pepperell Young Life program where current Berry College students make up most of the team of leaders.

“I hope to continue with FCA or Young Life after high school,” said Watkins who plans to major in exercise science and/or sports management. “Jesus has given so much to me throughout my entire life, the least I could do is spread around the love and joy he has bestowed within me.”

Watkins will also play for the Vikings football team as a wide receiver after finishing his high school career as a three time All-Region selection as well as a regional title. Watkins was also selected to the Elite Classic All-Star game during his senior year where he served as a team captain after a pair of state playoff appearances.

“I was told that there were two extra donors for the Gate Scholarship and that I was the chosen recipient of one of them,” he said. “I ran to my coach [Head Football Coach Rick Hurst] and hugged him, he had no clue what had happened until I told him ‘Coach I got Gate’ and we shared a deep, emotional hug and a huge sigh of relief set upon me because then I knew I was going to be a Berry Viking.”

Hulsey and Watkins are two of approximately 100 highly motivated incoming Berry students chosen to receive this honor.

Written by Berry College Communication Student Alexi Bell