For the past four summers, Wilson native Bree Labeth has volunteered to assist in anyway she can during the annual Greater Ardmore Scholarship Foundation’s golf tournament. She has been known to be at the registration table for checking in golfers, has assisted with setting up the silent auction tables and drove a golf cart around the course to check on golfers.
One year, she even greeted golfers back to the clubhouse of the Dornick Hills Country Club after 18-holes on the course. She thanked each one for participating in the event that raises funds for the scholarship foundation that “helps average students from average families” pay for college.
The 2010 graduate of Wilson High School and recent graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State University says had she not been awarded the scholarship, her student loans would have been doubled when she graduated in December.
“It meant the world to me,” Labeth said. “When I was a high school senior, my brother was still in school and my parents are both teachers. It meant a lot to have people in this community help me pay for school.
“I do my best to come back and give my time. The time I’ve spent volunteering is nothing compared to what they’ve done for me.”
Labeth, who will begin a physical therapy graduate program in August, was one of the many volunteers at the 15th annual GASF golf tournament and silent auction Monday at Dornick Hills Country Club. The tournament is the main fundraiser for the foundation, which awards college scholarships to students from Carter County high schools each spring.
Last month, the foundation announced awarding scholarships to 91 high school graduates from Ardmore, Dickson, Lone Grove, Plainview, Springer, Fox, Healdton and Wilson schools. Students will receive $500 per semester for the first two years of college. When students reach junior and senior status, the scholarship increases to $1,000 per semester, making it a potential award total of $6,000.
Roslyn Haile, executive director of the foundation, said all funds raised from Monday’s golf tournament and silent action go back into the scholarship fund. The foundation, in its 24th year of operation, has awarded more than $6.5 million in scholarship grants.
The tournament brought out 25 teams to tee-off in a four-person scramble. Teams represented local businesses and schools, with some teams coming from as far away as Tulsa and northern Texas, said Haile.
“We had a lot of support this year, and every year the support grows,” said Haile.
Haile says the tournament brought back many familiar faces as many teams come back each year to play. Also, some golfers are former or current recipients of the scholarship, like Trey Payne, a 2010 graduate of Ardmore High School.
“It is great to support the organization that helped me and has done so much,” Payne said. “They (GASF) do a lot to help out kids who need it.”
Payne, who is a student at Oklahoma Christian University, said he first heard about the scholarship program through his guidance counselor at Ardmore. His sister, Amber, a 2014 graduate of AHS, also received the scholarship award.
Josh Mitchell, a science teacher at Lone Grove High School and graduate of Wilson, is another recipient of the GASF and has participated in the golf tournament.
He said the scholarship was a huge help, assisting with paying for textbooks and tuition when he was a student at Southeastern. Now, as a high school teacher, he encourages his students to apply.
“Always, always talk about it in the spring and tell students to apply,” Mitchell said. “For a lot of students, receiving the scholarship will determine whether they go to college or not.”
The scholarship is based on a high school student’s family income, which must fall between $35,000 to $90,000 to meet the criteria. If a student has a sibling in college, then the limit is increased to $115,000. Students complete the application online. During the school year, Haile travels to the high schools in Carter County visiting with students about the scholarship and answering questions on criteria.     
The foundation was founded on the goal of helping a student who has a desire to go to college, but has average grades and come from an average family, said Dave Rickard, an advisory board member.
“When the foundation was founded, it was intended for the kids who were missing out,” Rickard said. “Students that are valedictorians get academic scholarships. Football and basketball players earn athletic scholarships. But this scholarship gives average kids an opportunity to better them selves.”