GRETNA, Va. — In 2017, Mrs. Vera Glass made a promise to the eighth-grade class of Gretna Middle School, where she served as principal until making the decision to retire. Four years later, Glass is making good on that promise to provide five of the now-high school graduates with a $1,000 scholarship.
On that day in 2017, at the Gretna Middle School end-of-year assembly, Glass looked out on the eighth graders who were about to embark on their high school journey and was struck by the notion that she wanted to make a difference in their lives.
“I was just look at them, thinking, ‘I hope their futures are going to be bright.’ I wanted them to have such a good future, but there’s no guarantee. Then, I started thinking, ‘if they just had the chance to optimize their opportunities…to maybe go on to a two-year school, or get a career certificate, or maybe just start going to a four-year school…I wanted to be a part of what they’re going to do,” Glass said.
It was at this moment that the J&L Fitzgerald-Glass Scholarship was born.
Glass credits her parents with providing enough support for her and her sister that they were able to obtain the college education that her parents lacked.
“They were ordinary people who worked at Dan River Mills, but they allowed me to have my dream because they supported me,” Glass said. “I wanted to [offer the scholarship] in their honor, in their memory, because they were pivotal in getting me to where I am. Now, I am enjoying my best life, and they are responsible for that.”
Glass’s appreciation for the sacrifices her parents made for her inspired Glass to pay it forward by offering a scholarship to these students. The principal announced that she would be at the students’ graduation in four years and that she would offer five of them a scholarship.
Glass told the students, “In four years, I’m going to be there with you, and I’m going to give you a chance: your chance.”
When establishing the criteria for the scholarship, Glass decided that rather than making grade point average or rank the determining factor, the J&L Fitzgerald-Glass scholarship would instead go to those who were “determined students, diligent students, hard-working students—willing to overcome adversity.”
This year’s recipients of the J&L Fitzgerald-Glass scholarship are Gabrielle Gilbert, Bri’Onna Hubbard, Brendan Myers, Joseph Patterson and Madison Sanchez.
Gilbert graduated in the top 50 of her class with plans to attend Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg before transferring to James Madison University. Gilbert is looking forward to pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music with a minor in business marketing, as she believes that music is her “gift from God.” Gilbert serves as a tutor in the Junior and Youth Ministry at Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Gilbert is also a member of the National Technical Honor Society at the Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center.
Hubbard plans to attend Ferrum College in pursuit of a degree in pre-professional health sciences. Her career aspirations include joining the United States Air Force and becoming a physician assistant specializing in cardiology. It is Hubbard’s dream “to show younger African American girls and boys that they can become anything they put their minds to.”
Myers graduated sixth in his class with a grade point average of 4.4. During high school, he has participated in FBLA, Scholastic Bowl, Beta and basketball. Myers will be attending Virginia Tech, where he will major in sports media and analytics. After completing his bachelor’s degree, Myers would like to pursue a career in sports broadcasting or commentating and hopes to “use whatever platform [he] gains to spread positivity and help the community.”
Patterson graduated tenth in his class with a grade point average of 4.1, as well as attending the Piedmont Governor’s School for Mathematics, Science, and Technology. He intends to complete a B.S.N. degree at Radford Carilion University. Patterson is grateful and optimistic that college will provide him “the chance to help people in the community and to give underrepresented groups of people access to good medical care.”
Sanchez graduated fifth in her class with a grade point average of 4.4 and also attended PGSMST. Throughout high school, she played volleyball and softball and was a member of Beta club. Sanchez plans to attend Central Virginia Community College to complete the Radiologic Technology Program before transferring to Averett University to complete a degree in Biology with a concentration in Radiology and specialization in Radiation Therapy. Sanchez’s “goal and aspirations are to help others who face radiation treatment, [which] was administered to my mom and saved her life.”
Glass’s own life is an example of how life can bring unexpected opportunities. Shortly after retiring in 2017, she decided to return to her first “love”—teaching. She currently teaches at George Washington High School and plans to continue doing so for as long as she is needed.
“[I’ve had] a full career with kids, and I have just loved every minute of it,” Glass said. “I wouldn’t change my journey or the steps in my journey for the world because I ended up here, which is where I think I should end my career—back in the classroom.”
It is Glass’s hope that she will be able to offer the scholarship again next year, possibly extending the opportunity to students from other schools as well.
“I think it’s good for them to know that people support their efforts so that they can achieve their dreams. I love the life I have, and it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have my education.”