Friends named Dr.Sam Bounds Scholarship Winners

Published 1:12 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Lisa Bounds, the widow of a lifetime educator and former Brookhaven School District Superintendent Sam Bounds, awarded two friends the Dr. Sam Bounds Scholarship Tuesday. Seniors Jenna Fuller and Allie Grace McNeill will graduate this Friday. 

Fuller and McNeill became friends at Mamie Martin Elementary School in first grade. Coincidentally, their moms Allison Genarro and Dawn Fuller work at the school. Sam Bounds hired both of them. Genarro is in her 26th year of teaching. She is a second grade teacher. Fuller is the pre-kindergarten director and is in her 28th year of teaching. 

McNeill has plans to serve her community after college. 

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“I’ve been in the Brookhaven School District my whole life. It means a lot to win this scholarship,” McNeill said. “My plans after high school is to go to Co-Lin, play tennis and study nursing. I want to be a nurse because I like helping other people.” 

Fuller has plans to return home and become a teacher and coach. She added she grew up hearing about Sam Bounds. 

“I’ve gone to school here for 13 years. I’ve heard the stories about what an amazing coach and superintendent he was,” Fuller said. “I want to go into coaching. I plan to go to Co-Lin and earn a degree in secondary education and become a coach in Brookhaven. I want to teach English and coach. Sam Bounds was inspiring to me.” 

Making a difference

The Dr. Sam Bounds Scholarship is presented to a senior athlete who embodies the qualities Sam Bounds exemplified in his life. He was an outstanding athlete, spending 42 years as a coach, teacher and administrator. 

The memorial scholarship recognizes someone who has a dedicated work ethic, strong career aspirations and a budding leadership ability who has made significant contributions as a team player despite challenges. 

Lisa Bounds created the scholarship to help continue his legacy long after he died. She told the girls one thing which stood out to her was how the girls had chosen careers to make a lifelong difference. 

“One thing I love about both of them is they have all chosen careers where they will make a difference,” Bounds said. “You outlive your life when you make a difference for other people. That played into our decision about wanting to honor y’all.” 

Words of recommendation 

Lisa Bounds said the scholarship committee received great letters of recommendation for both girls. In the selection process, they were unaware they were friends. 

Layne Xifos, a math teacher at Brookhaven High School, wrote a letter recommending McNeill. She began by saying McNeill embodied the characteristics of a leader through service and responsibility. McNeill demonstrated a love for learning and commitment needed to succeed in college, Xifos wrote. 

“As an educator, I am happy to provide this recommendation for such a deserving student demonstrated by her full dedication to constantly improving her knowledge,” Xifos wrote. “She has always been a strong and driving force in my classroom pushing the lesson forward, asking questions, ensuring understanding and always being willing to be a part of the learning experience.” 

Xifos wrote McNeill is “well known and well loved,” by her peers. She helps students around her increase their knowledge to succeed. Xifos added she believes McNeill would be successful in college and future careers. 

McNeill is described as a well rounded student by Xifos. She volunteers at King’s Daughter Medical Center, with the Brookhaven School District on physical day and the Mamie Martin Fall Festival. Xifos wrote McNeil helps with Junior Auxiliary, Brookhaven Animal Rescue League and volunteering with her church’s vacation bible school. 

“She is a senior captain on Brookhaven High School’s tennis team, leads our school’s student Red Nation Club and is heavily involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes,” Xifos wrote. “Throughout all of this, Allie Grace is humble and considers all of her abilities, opportunities and successes to be blessings and uses them to help her team members and others around her.” 

Biological science teacher Amy Rutland wrote the letter of recommendation for Fuller. She began her letter by stating she has known Fuller for six years. Rutland taught her in human anatomy and physiology and served as her senior sponsor this year. 

Rutland wrote Fuller is a “highly intelligent,” woman with excellent leadership skills and moral character. She is respectful of peers and teachers. In human anatomy and physiology, Fuller was the top of her class and helped peers stay motivated to work when the subject matter and assignments were hard. 

Rutland wrote that Fuller was a “wonderful athlete,” in addition to being a strong student. 

“Not only is she skilled at softball but she also possesses the heart it takes to be a team player,” Rutland wrote. “I have watched Jenna grow up on the softball team from junior high to her senior year and have seen her dedication to the sport and her teammates as well as her perseverance through injury and hardship. When given situations where some would have thrown in the towel, Jenna has kept the course and pressed onward.” 

Fuller is active in school clubs, organizations, her church and community. Rutland wrote she has seen Fuller play a role in trying to lead young students and players in the right direction with “positive attitudes, affirmations and a great sense of humor. 

Rutland wrote she taught for Bounds in the Brookhaven School District. 

“I feel uniquely qualified to say that Jenna Fuller is the kind of student athlete he would have appreciated and applauded,” Rutland wrote. “It is my opinion that Ms. Fuller is a very deserving nominee and should be given the utmost consideration for this honor.” 

Overcoming tragedy

Sam’s dad died when he was 13, Bounds said. It was an obstacle he had to overcome. Likewise McNeill and Fuller experienced the loss of their fathers in high school. She shared some encouraging words for the girls. “You are to be commended for continuing on,” she said. 

Shane McNeill died in March 2024 just a few months before graduation. Mark Fuller died in July 2020. Jenna Fuller said one reason she wants to teach English is because of the effect writing had on her after her father died. 

“I love to write and after losing my dad I learned it was easier to put everything on paper,” Fuller said. “It was easier for me to put my feelings in writing. My love for writing grew from there.” 

Gennaro said she thought it was sweet how the friends had tragically lost their dads in high school and shared in the experience of winning the scholarship honoring Sam Bounds. 

“I think it is so special they have been friends since first grade and have had many happy times together,” Gennaro said. “They have also had some sad times together. It is so sweet how it worked out.”