Delia Grantham, a 2018 graduate of Bexley High School, will have the comfort of knowing that her college education is paid for when Ohio University's fall semester begins Monday, Aug. 26.
She recently learned she is the recipient of a $50,000 scholarship from Top Hat, a higher education learning platform.
Grantham said she was informed she was a finalist for the Top Hat scholarship in early June. At that time, she participated in a video call with Top Hat cofounder and CEO Mike Silagadze, whom she said initially told her the purpose of the call was to ask additional questions about her scholarship application.
When Silagadze announced Grantham was the winner of the largest scholarship the company has awarded thus far in 2019, Grantham said she "just instantly started sobbing. I cried and I cried. It was such a life-changing moment for me, because paying for college is such a big barrier, and knowing that most of my college is paid for is such a relief."
"As an in-state student at Ohio University, she'll now be able to focus on her studies and pursue her interests without worrying about the financial burden of tuition payments," Silagadze said in a news release.
Grantham is one of five students that Top Hat awarded a total of $100,000 in scholarships to in June. The other recipients are: Emma Rice, Michigan State University, $20,000; Nicole Blinn, Dalhousie University, $10,000; Hope Long, University of North Georgia, $10,000; and Patryk Tomaszkiewicz, Texas A&M University, $10,000. The scholarship recipients were nominated by their professors and demonstrated in their applications that they saw academic improvement by using Top Hat's digital platform, Silagadze said.
When the new school year begins, Grantham will be a sophomore majoring in social work. The field is of special interest to Grantham, who was the first in her family to graduate high school. At the age of 15, she and her three younger siblings were removed from her parents' custody after a "toxic and abusive home life."
Grantham credits a Franklin County social worker who was assigned to her case for providing emotional support and helping her transition to the custody of her best friend's family, the Burrises. Grantham said the social worker provided a much-needed, stable influence on her life, and she wants to do the same for others.
"I've had so many supporters along this journey," Grantham said. "To find people who gave me genuine love and support is so important."
Grantham, who worked five days a week during her freshman year, said her scholarship will enable her to devote more time to volunteering.
"I would love to go out and help people and serve meals -- the after-school things I saw my classmates get to do," she said.
"When I think about helping others, I get teary-eyed because of how much I want to make a difference."