Huntington North High School (HNHS) junior Brooke Swaidner was recently named the second recipient of the Smart Girls Scholarship through the Terra Brantley Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club (BGC) Smart Girls Program. On Wednesday, Dec. 22, Swaidner received the $15,000 scholarship at the BGC of Huntington County with friends, family, club members and Terra Brantley Foundation members present.
BGC of Huntington County CEO Mandy Reber began the presentation by welcoming everyone and explaining a little bit about the Smart Girls Program.
“If you ask Club kids when they graduate what their favorite program is, Smart Girls is almost always one of the top two or three programs,” Reber said. “So often girls when they are going through this program—it’s for seventh through 12th grade—those are the years that we’re awkward, that we look to other things that we shouldn’t to try to find our confidence. In Smart Girls, we find that confidence in ourselves.”
Reber started this program in Huntington when she came to the Huntington location in 2005.
“We’ve never had this big of a scholarship opportunity for one of our Club members, so we’re super excited,” Reber said. “Brooke works very hard to get the grades she has and to do well in school and it’s not something she just takes lightly… she’s very deserving of this opportunity.”
After Reber spoke, Terra Brantley took the stage to share with those present how the Foundation came to be.
“The Foundation’s purpose is to help girls, women and minorities secure financial resources to help them get a college education and also invest in themselves, as well as their community,” Brantley explained. “I started this to fulfill a promise I made to myself many, many moons ago when I was a struggling college student. During my sophomore year, I had to sit out part of that year, but because of a $1,500 tip that a customer gave me while I was working as a hostess at a restaurant, I was able to go back to school and still graduate within a four-year period like I had never missed a beat.
“I promised myself I would help someone else out. I never saw the customer again, but that impact was so huge on me that I made promise to myself that if I was ever in a position to help someone else out—like that person helped me out, the customer, the stranger—I would. So the Foundation is a realization of the promise I made to myself many, many years ago.”
Brantley went on to explain that the Foundation offers the scholarship to a female student age 16 to 19. That student must attend a college university in Indiana to be eligible.
According to a press release by the BGC of Huntington County, Brantley said, “The Foundation is still in its infancy and I am thrilled that we are able to award a second $15,000 scholarship. Our goal is to expand beyond Allen and Huntington counties and offer the scholarships at Boys & Girls clubs throughout Northeast Indiana that offer a Smart Girls Program.”
“Brooke represents everything that the Smart Girls Program aims to instill in young women,” said BGC of Huntington County Operations Director Ashley Allen in the same press release. “She maintains a healthy lifestyle, strives for excellence in education and is a leader among her peers. We are grateful for the commitment the Terra Brantley Foundation has made to the Smart Girls Program and Boys & Girls clubs.”
According to the release, Swaidner plans to attend college when she graduates in 2023 to major in elementary education. She is currently an honor roll student-athlete at HNHS, where she plays softball. She is also involved in 4-H.
After receiving the award, Swaidner said, “Thanks so much Terra and Terra Brantley Foundation for just giving me this opportunity and also inspiring young women like me. The Club has been a huge support for me over these past six years as a Club kid and now as a junior staff. I’m just so grateful that all my family and friends are here today and (that) they have supported me. Again, thank you so much.”
“This scholarship means I can achieve my dream career and maybe go to my dream school too,” Swaidner continued. “It just opens up a world of opportunity and I’m just very hopeful for my future.
The final speaker for the day was BGC of Huntington County Program Director Desiree Frederick.
“Smart Girls is such an important part of what we do in our clubs and to see young girls like Brooke start off in our Princess Club up to Smart Girls and then getting to see her give back now to the younger members that she works with at our Warren site… it’s truly a transformation to watch our young women do this and to give them this opportunity in a scholarship is just outstanding. It’s hard to put into words how excited we are for our girls to be able to have this opportunity now,” Frederick said.
“I know this scholarship is going to help you do amazing things and go on to help many youth in your lifetime as a teacher,” Frederick continued. “We’re very very proud of you.”