High school counselor rallies hundreds for informational event

November 6, 2023

When School Counselor Yvonne McDaniel learned about the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, she knew she wanted to call more attention to it.

“I thought to myself, ‘Praise God! You don’t have to go through what I did with student loans,’” she said. “I want these students to do better than me. Student loans are one less thing they have to worry about. The only they need to do is go to college and study.”

The district had 12 Meeting Street Scholarship recipients last year, and district leaders want to double that number this year. With that goal in mind, the Florence School District 3 dual enrollment counselor took it upon herself to organize an educational event dedicated to the Scholarship Fund. In addition to traditional efforts to spread the word such as emails and phone calls, she recruited students to text their friends about it and had a coworker who she describes as the “unofficial mayor of Lake City” post the event on her Facebook page.

She also was thoughtful about the event space she selected – a central location at the Continuum – and its time, which started at 5:30 p.m. to catch working parents on their way home or before they reported for a second shift.

The innovation worked. The standing-room only event had more than 250 students and parents attendees.

“It was incredible,” said Meeting Street Scholarship Fund Program Director John Huber-MacNealy. “I’ve never attended a family event that was so well attended, and that speaks to Ms. Yvonne’s relationship with the community.

“They trusted her to know that this is going to be worth their time. Ms. Yvonne has a clear understanding of what students and the community need, and she has clarity on the significant impact of this kind of opportunity. There was this palpable sense of hope and optimism.”

McDaniel is the first high school counselor to take on planning an event such as this dedicated to the Meeting Street Scholarship Fund but hopefully not the last. Huber-MacNealy said the Scholarship Fund is interested and willing to partner with any school interested in hosting an informational event. The Scholarship Fund can provide communication and logistics support.

McDaniel allowed herself a brief celebratory moment before moving forward – and brainstorming her next event for students.

“My next dream is to do a Meeting Street college tour,” said McDaniel, adding that she wants to take students on a road trip to the schools eligible for the scholarship.

McDaniel credited her late mentor, the district’s former Director of Student Services Yvonne Scott, for setting the bar high – “this is something she would’ve done,” McDaniel said. And she said she also appreciated the support of Florence Schools District 3 Superintendent Dr. Laura Hickson.