Development News

Brooks family establishes music education residency scholarship to ease financial burden for seniors

The Brooks family in Tennessee Tech shirts

Inspired by their daughter’s experience at Tennessee Tech, Barbara and Jessie Brooks, along with daughter Shelby, have established the Brooks Family Music Education Residency Scholarship.

“When we see a need, we try to help,” Barbara said.

In addition to Barbara, `83 accounting, and Shelby, `20 music education, numerous members of the Brooks family are Tech alumni as well including Barbara’s brother, sister, brother-in-law, two nephews and two nieces.

“My older brother went to Tech, and it created this legacy of so many members of our family coming to Tech,” Barbara explained.

When Shelby became the most recent Brooks family member to choose Tech, Barbara and Jessie traveled from their home in Kingston to Cookeville as often as possible to attend football games, music recitals and other events on campus. And they remember the excitement they felt the first time they saw Shelby play in the marching band.  

“The first time she marched, I thought, ‘This is real – she’s actually in a university marching band!’” Barbara said.

Jessie says he didn’t realize how hard music majors work until he saw it through Shelby’s eyes, and it’s one of the reasons he wanted to establish a scholarship at Tech.

“We want to ease the burden of not only music students, but their parents as well,” he said. “We have been blessed with steady jobs, but that’s not always the case with some students and their parents. Some of Shelby’s friends struggled financially.”

Barbara added, “It would be hard, with class and football game schedules, for these students to work.”

Barbara and Jessie told Shelby she could decide the criteria for the scholarship, and after careful consideration, Shelby decided she wanted to designate the scholarship for senior music education students beginning their residency. She explains that the hardest part about being a music education major is the residency requirement, or what is commonly referred to as student teaching.

“When you are student teaching five days a week, eight hours a day, that becomes a full-time job, but you aren’t paid because it’s a requirement for your major,” Shelby said. “To hold down a job while doing residency is hard to manage. You also have to work on your teacher licensure. So many requirements are happening at the same time. That’s why we designated the scholarship for a student doing residency – to ease that financial burden a little.”

Barbara says she didn’t receive scholarships when she attended Tech, and she had to go home every weekend to work a minimum wage job to pay for tuition and other expenses. But she wanted something better for Shelby.

“I wanted Shelby to have the full college experience and enjoy all that was available to her,” Barbara said.

While Shelby received scholarships from Tech, Jessie and Barbara acknowledge that not every student is as fortunate.

“There are a lot of kids who want to play in a college band and can’t, because even with scholarships, college is still a lot of money,” Jessie said. “Not every kid is going to be the star athlete or have the highest GPA, and I am really happy to give back because there’s a child out there who isn’t going to get a scholarship, and I hope he or she receives ours.”

The Brooks family says they didn’t realize how simple and affordable it would be to endow a scholarship. The minimum to endow a scholarship at Tech is $25,000, and the funds can be pledged over a period of five years: $5,000 per year for five years.

“In my mind, I thought you had to be ultra-rich to endow a scholarship,” Barbara said. “We are not wealthy people. We are working people. But we can establish a scholarship at Tech. You don’t have to sacrifice a great deal, and all three of us are contributing to this. We hope that others follow suit and find a way to support the college or school of their choice.”

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