Ackerman receives inaugural scholarship

Michael Smith
Recent Plainview High School graduate Kaleigh Ackerman accepts the Zachary Harris Memorial Scholarship from Billy Lloyd, Chairman of the Southern Oklahoma Higher Education Foundation Scholarship Selection Committee. Ackerman is the first recipient of the scholarship named for the former Southeastern student killed in a 2019 car crash.

In September 2019, Southeastern Oklahoma State University junior Zachary Harris was killed in a car crash in Johnston County and a memorial scholarship was soon established in his honor. Kaleigh Ackerman is the first recipient of the scholarship and remembers Harris well.

“He was actually my brother’s best friend and I’m friends with his little sister, too,” Ackerman said by phone Wednesday. Harris was actually among some of the first friends of Ackerman and her siblings when they moved to Ardmore from Texas.

Ackerman is no stranger to tragedy and she knows well about memorial scholarships to keep memories alive. Her older brother, Josh, was killed in a car crash about ten years before Harris’s death. Her brother also had a memorial scholarship established after his death.

“It’s kind of cool that I’m getting one like we did for him. That was really special for my family,” she said. “But they’re in a better place.”

Ackerman is among the Plainview High School class of 2020 and said she is excited to continue her education and pursue a career in nursing, especially after such a bizarre ending to her senior year. She comes from a family of nurses and said she always watched health care workers while she grew up.

“My mom is actually a nurse, and my nana,” she said. “I’ve always loved being around people and helping.”

She already has over 20 credit hours thanks to concurrent enrollment since her junior year in high school. With high school behind her, Ackerman will continue college classes through Murray State College before hopefully completing a bachelor’s degree at Langston University.

The Zachary Harris Memorial Scholarship was established by the Southern Oklahoma Higher Education Foundation, according to the University Center of Southern Oklahoma. The UCSO statement also said Harris was the grandson of longtime UCSO employee Barbara Ellis.

Ackerman will use the $1,000 scholarship when she attends her MSC classes at the UCSO campus in Ardmore in the fall.

“High school was fun, it was kind of crazy these last couple of months with coronavirus...but I’m ready to get into my career,” she said.