A Western Carolina University student who wants to teach children with special needs when she graduates is the recipient of the first award from a newly endowed scholarship fund honoring the memory of Steven C. Jones, a well-known Jackson County educator who died in 2012.
Morgan Mehaffey, a 2012 graduate of Pisgah High School, is recipient of a $500 award for the 2013-14 academic year. A Haywood County native, she is a sophomore majoring in inclusive education, a program that prepares students to work as teachers in elementary schools where children with disabilities learn together in the same classes with other students. Mehaffey, who hopes to teach in Haywood County when she graduates, is the daughter of Dewayne and Tracey Mehaffey of Canton.
The Steven C. Jones Endowed Scholarship is designated for outstanding students who demonstrate distinguished service to the inclusive education community. Mehaffey has a 3.9 grade-point average and is a volunteer with WCU’s University Participant Program, where she helps college-aged people with intellectual disabilities make the transition from secondary school to adult life and independent living. The two-year program is campus-based and participants earn a certificate when they complete it.
Her interest in helping students with special needs comes from her close relationship with a cousin who has the genetic disorder Fragile X syndrome. “I’ve watched him grow up and saw that going to school made a change and a difference in every aspect of his life, and that’s what I would like to do for children with special needs,” Mehaffey said. “When I met the Jones family, they said the same thing. It’s very affirming to receive an award from a family with a background story as wonderful as Mr. Jones’ story.”
When he died unexpectedly last December at the age of 51, Steve Jones was in the 28th year of his career with Jackson County Schools. He had served at virtually every level of public education, from teaching and administrative positions to director of school improvement. He was the associate superintendent of Jackson County Schools at the time of his death. Jones was a popular and highly respected member of the community, and several hundred people attended his memorial service, filling Myers Auditorium at Southwestern Community College.
Jones had a lifelong interest in helping children with disabilities, and as a teenager drove a bus that transported those students to and from school. After graduating from WCU, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he taught special education classes in several local schools. He started a program with his wife called Alternative Family Living. They brought children with special needs who might otherwise have been institutionalized into their own home to live, and some stayed to adulthood.
Family and friends decided last April to create the WCU scholarship in Jones’ memory and organized two major fundraising events, a golf tournament and music concert. Several family members – including Jones’ widow, Eva Jones; their sons Isaac and Jacob; Steve Jones’ brother, Mark Jones of Cashiers; and their sister, Allison Lassiter, and niece, Sarah McEntire, both of Smithfield – helped plan and organize the events and prepare food. High Hampton Inn & County Club in Cashiers hosted the golf tournament and the concert at Bridge Park in Sylva, featuring Jacob Jones and his band Lonesome Sound, attracted a large crowd. “We’re especially grateful to High Hampton for the use of their facilities. We greatly appreciate the support from the entire Jackson County community in making the endowment possible. It’s been very heartwarming for our family,” said Eva Jones. By May, the fund reached the $10,000 endowment threshold.
The establishment of endowed scholarships is a major fundraising priority at WCU. Endowed scholarships ensure that donations to the fund are permanently invested with a goal of creating financial support for future students. Awards come from dividends and interest earned by the endowment, and additional gifts help to grow the endowment so that even larger scholarship awards can be made in the future. For more information or to make a donation to the Steven C. Jones Endowed Scholarship, contact the WCU Office of Development at 828-227-7124 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.