WINTERVILLE — A local philanthropic organization has provided scholarship funding for four seniors at the Pitt County Schools Early College High School on Pitt Community College’s campus.
Still Serving Inc., founded and led by retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Major Mario P. Fields, presented a $2,000 check to ECHS administrators last month. The money will help offset the cost of tuition and fees for Nazmya Awadallah, Evelyn Espino-Gamez, Jatziri Marin-Toledo and Payton Moore, who will graduate May 25 and are planning to enroll at PCC.
“One of our goals at Pitt Early College is for students to continue to be lifelong learners, whether they enter the workforce or pursue a bachelor’s degree or certification,” ECHS Principal Wynn Whittington said. “Our partnership with Still Serving Inc. and their generous donation will enable these young ladies to fulfill our goal for them. In turn, they will make a difference in our community.”
Whittington said the money Still Serving raised during the 2022-23 academic year will help the students pay for college expenses not typically covered under ECHS’ funding mandates and guidelines. Awadallah and Moore will study health information technology at Pitt. Espino-Gamez will pursue a dental assisting diploma, and Marin-Toledo will take cosmetology.
“Still Serving Inc.’s mission is to improve the educational experience for high school students in economically-disadvantaged communities,” Fields said. “I hope our donation demonstrates our commitment to our mission and helps each student attain their educational goals.”
After completing a 26-year career with the Marines, Fields said he wanted to continue pursuing his passion for helping people achieve their life goals. Still Serving Inc., he says, allows him to carry on his lifelong commitment to positively impacting his fellow citizens and making the world a better place for future generations. “My vision is to inspire a global community that fosters economic growth, diverse thinkers and empowered action, so I decided to develop the ‘Adopt-A-School’ program that focuses on collaborative school, community and industry partnerships,” Fields said. “Simply put, (I wanted) to show these students we, as a community, care about their future.”
Through Adopt-A-School, Still Serving, Inc. establishes collaborations and develops fundraising strategies that support skills-based learning opportunities and internships. Thus far, the organization has contributed $11,500 to its two partner schools — ECHS and the Innovation Early College High School at East Carolina University — to fund more than 15 skills-based events and impact more than 500 students. “Every time I stop and review these statistics, it brings me joy that we are making a positive impact in Pitt County,” Fields said.
A Michigan native, Fields’ Marine Corps service includes three years as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and participation in several military operations, including Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, his decorated military career included deployment to Australia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Djibouti, Africa.