Hattie M. Strong Foundation gives back to future teachers

The Hattie M. Strong Foundation supports “young people of promise” in their pursuit of higher education. When charitable foundations like Hattie M. Strong partner with universities like Radford, financial support is able to be provided to future educators as they cross the finish line to graduation. 

Six students in Radford University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) teacher education program were each awarded $5,000 scholarships by the Hattie M. Strong Foundation this year. The 2021-22 Strong Scholars are:

  • Amber Waskewicz, Health and Physical Education
  • Sarah Blackburn, Art Education
  • Connor Parks, Physics Education
  • Morgan Doty, Elementary Education
  • Kenai Hunt, Special Education
  • Jacob Vernon, Special Education

On April 25, 2022, these students gathered at the annual Strong Scholars Awards Dinner in Peters Hall to share presentations recapping their student teaching experiences and expressing gratitude for the scholarship support they have received. Executive Director of the Hattie M. Strong Foundation, Robin Tanner, was the guest of honor.

“Having the opportunity to meet our Strong Scholars and learn more about the journey that has gotten them this far in their education is very special to me,” said Tanner. “They all put a great deal of effort into their presentations. It’s apparent that they care deeply about supporting their students, and caring requires a lot of hard work, time and effort.”

Kenai Hunt ’21, M.S. ’22 presenting at the Strong Scholars Awards Dinner

Kenai Hunt ’21, M.S. ’22 was involved on campus in many ways during her time at Radford, including as a peer instructor; a mentor for sister2sister, a mentoring program for minority students; and as the community service chair for 100 Collegiate Women, an organization that focuses on service, sisterhood, self-development, women empowerment and mentorship. In the classroom, Hunt focuses on empowering her students, being inclusive and providing choices.

“This scholarship has assisted me in becoming one step closer to what some may call a career, but what I call a dream come true,” explained Hunt. “Being a student-teacher for the past two semesters has been amazing to say the least. I have laughed, smiled, and at times, cried. I have heard stories and shared experiences, both positive and negative. My students have changed my life just as much as I feel that I have changed theirs. What brings me joy is knowing that I am making a difference even if we don’t look the same, sound the same or have the same abilities. I am grateful to have been a recipient of this scholarship, and I am excited to continue doing the work I have been called to do.”

Jacob Vernon, M.S. ’22 presenting at the Strong Scholars Awards Dinner

Jacob Vernon, M.S. ’22 chose to major in special education because he wanted to make a difference. As someone who had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for reading in elementary school, Vernon knew that his unique perspective gave him a better understanding of what his students were experiencing in the classroom.

“It is my job as a special educator to develop unique ways to teach students that pique their interest. Building confidence is also a significant part of my job. There is nothing better than when a student gets excited about mastering a task,” said Vernon. “I believe special education teachers must develop a relationship with their students because learning about their interests, dislikes and dreams is essential. A teacher who adheres to this mindset has the tools necessary to create instruction that caters to the student’s individual needs.”

The Hattie M. Strong Foundation aims to reduce students’ financial burden during their student-teaching semester when their ability to offset expenses with outside employment is limited by full-time work in the classroom. The Foundation made its first gift to Radford University in 2012 and has provided $290,000 to support student teachers to date.


Hattie M. Strong, born on October 23, 1864 in South Coventry, Connecticut, had a special interest in helping young adults, especially those who would pay it forward. Strong passed away on June 6, 1950 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but her legacy lives on in the Hattie M. Strong Foundation, which she established in 1928. The Hattie M. Strong Foundation scholarship program is specifically aimed at college students enrolled in teacher-training programs at selected partnering institutions.

Recipients of the Hattie M. Strong scholarship must have GPAs of 3.0 or better for the two semesters prior to student teaching, exhibit outstanding success and enthusiasm in previous field experiences, show strong leadership skills and demonstrate financial need. The recipients must intend to pursue a teaching career, and preference is provided to applicants with a demonstrated record of "helping others help themselves.”

If you would like to learn more about giving to the College of Education and Human Development, please contact Penny White, Senior Director for University Advancement, at pwhite@radford.edu.