Princess' Kayla Dawson: Scholarships Ease Financial Burden


Reading really paid off for students at two Norfolk Public Schools in the Campostella area of Norfolk.

In 2005, Metro Machine Corp., a ship repair company, established a college scholarship fund at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation for children at St. Helena and Campostella elementary schools achieving Accelerated Reading Program milestones. The company made additional contributions over the years to inspire students to improve their reading skills.

Thanks to the company’s generosity years ago, students like Princess’ Kayla Dawson worry less about college costs. Dawson, a sophomore at Virginia Tech, received a $4,300 Metro Machine Scholarship from the community foundation because Metro Machine made donations in her honor when she was in fourth and fifth grades.

Princess' Kayla Dawson

Dawson is amazed that “I did something as a kid that significantly helped out later on, and I didn’t really know the impact of it at the time. It is just really cool that Metro Machine and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation as organizations just kind of foster that support.”

Although In the Community Dynamics Corp. bought Metro Machine Corp. in 2011, the funds it donated continue to grow. Each year community foundation staff track down former Campostella area students to inform them about their Metro Machine Fund scholarships. Dawson, who attended St. Helena Elementary School, is among 19 students who have received Metro Machine scholarships.

“I know how tough life is there,” said Dawson, a graduate of Norfolk Collegiate School, said of her childhood neighborhood. “So, if you have an activity to keep kids on the right track from the beginning it’s really, really good.”

Dawson, who also received a renewable $2,500 Thomas P. Thompson scholarship administered by the community foundation, believes many people from her neighborhood do not go to college, partly because of the cost.

Her Thompson scholarship pays homage to a former Norfolk city manager who served five years and passed away in 1957. In 1976, after his wife Helen Taylor Thompson died, her charitable bequest started the Thompson scholarship fund to benefit Norfolk residents. Over the years, 48 students received renewable Thompson scholarships.

Thomas Thompson, Norfolk’s First Citizen in 1950, played a key role in constructing the Campostella and Southern Branch bridges and the Norfolk-Portsmouth tunnels. He also had a hand in developing Norfolk International Airport and Norfolk Botanical Garden.

An engineer, Thompson grew up in South Carolina and Georgia. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology and studied at Cornell University. He moved to Virginia to work in the naval shipyard in Portsmouth. He later co-founded Neff and Thompson, an architectural firm that helped build Maury High School in Norfolk and the Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach.

Dawson, who is studying management and human resources at Virginia Tech, is especially grateful the Thompson scholarship is renewable for four years.

“A lot of my friends aren’t here their second year because they just can’t afford it,” she said. Renewable scholarships “really help out.”

Dawson said family health issues made it hard to set aside money for her education. She returns home frequently to help support her family’s health needs, including a parent on dialysis.

After graduation, Dawson plans to live and work in Norfolk. Inspired by Metro Machine Corp. and Thomas P. Thompson, she studies hard at Tech to prepare to make her community better.

“The best way to give back is to put yourself in a position so that you can,” she said. “I want to do work with corporations that focus on their social responsibility and the way they give back.”


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