Johnston teen wins $5,000 scholarship from state’s electric cooperatives

Laney Willis of Johnston is the recipient of the 2020 R.D. Bennett Community Service Scholarship presented by The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Inc., the trade association for South Carolina’s independent, not-for profit electric cooperatives. The $5,000 college scholarship is presented to a student who completes a community service project that best exemplifies the cooperative principle of “concern for community.”

Willis, 17, was among a group of high school students from across the state who completed projects this summer. In late-August, a panel of judges selected her project, “COVID Care Bags,” as the winner in the competition. Willis organized a barbecue fundraiser and used the proceeds to assemble care packages for residents at The Ridge Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center of Edgefield during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The most rewarding thing was seeing the sense of joy on the residents’ faces when I dropped off the bags,” said Willis. “Everyone worked so hard to make this happen.”

“Laney implemented a grass roots campaign that aligns with the spirit of electric cooperatives,” said Muriel Gouffray, Marketing & Strategic Services Manager at Aiken Electric Cooperative. “The project reached out to a community that has been isolated from the comfort of human touch and the joys of spending time with family due to the pandemic.”

Larson completed her project after attending the co-ops’ Virtual Youth Experience, a week-long web conference sponsored by South Carolina’s electric cooperatives, designed to bring together high-achieving high school students from across the state to meet with various local, state and national leaders.

Willis is a senior at Strom Thurmond High School.

The R.D. Bennett Community Service Scholarship is named for Robert D. Bennett, the first general manager and executive vice president of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Inc. Bennett, who led the state association from 1950 until his retirement in 1980, strongly believed that electric cooperatives should support their local communities — providing a better quality of life for their members. His spirit of community service is reflected in this scholarship opportunity.

Submitted by Chase Toler