In 2000, the Alabama Affordable Housing Association (AAHA) created an education scholarship program for residents of member-owned apartment properties in Alabama. The scholarship funds are donated by the owners, contractors, architects, accountants, property management companies, investors, lenders, developers, and various vendors that make up AAHA’s membership as well as other interested individuals. Since its inception, the AAHA resident scholarship fund has awarded more than $750,000 in college and vocational scholarships.
Originally from Albertville, a preschool-age Jilli Boyd and her mother relocated to Birmingham for access to better educational options. The recession of 2008 caused Boyd’s mother to lose all three of her jobs and led them to move back to Albertville to be closer to family.
The Boyds were able to secure an apartment at Angela Meadows, a 48-unit development financed in part by $287,629 in Housing Credits administered by AHFA.
“It has been safe, sanitary and affordable,” said Boyd. “But it was amazing how many children I met in that neighborhood and how many families. You are never alone, ever. The property managers don’t talk down to you. They are always there to build you up and help you get back on your feet.”
Boyd graduated from Albertville High School in May 2016 with plans to attend a four-year university as a communications major. However, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, things went a different direction. Around the same time, Boyd’s mother decided to enroll in school at Snead State Community College to complete her own education.
“She just wanted to show me that you always need to finish what you start,” said Boyd. “And she since had me at such a young age, she was showing me and wanting to be the best example.”
Her mother told her that her only wish was for Boyd to walk with her at graduation. It was then that Boyd decided to forego starting at a four-year university and chose the more affordable Snead State Community College her mother was attending. Ten days after her high school graduation, Boyd secretly attended her first college class. She ultimately completed her associate degree, with a 4.0 grade point average, a year later.
Just in time to surprise her mother, the two walked together at graduation.
“When it came time for us to walk at graduation, I was right there beside her,” said Boyd. “She did a lot for me, so I had to give back some way, somehow. Although it was THE hardest thing … I had more mental breakdowns in that year than in my entire life. But knowing everything that she’s done, all the sacrifices that she’s made, it was so worth it. If I had to do it all over again, I would.”
Boyd is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She plans to work in the medical field and is interested in serving in the medical missionary field, where she expects to travel out of the country to areas with scarce medical care.
“I have a big heart for people in general,” said Boyd. “Being around people is what drives me. In nursing, I believe the most impactful way that I can do that is medical mission trips.”
Boyd remains involved with organizations that conduct mission trips, volunteers at a local hospital, and has worked up to four jobs at one time while in school. She is dedicated, independent, and has an admirable work ethic. Not only did her mom make her work in order to buy her first bicycle, Boyd bought her own first car at 18 years old as well.
She will be a first-generation four-year college graduate as well as the first nurse in her family.
As a 2019 AAHA scholarship winner, Boyd will receive $1,500 to use toward her college expenses. “Obviously, the scholarship is helping with my books and helping me get some credit hours,” said Boyd. “Also, you learn to follow rules, because you have guidelines to be on the scholarship. You have to keep a certain GPA. It’s extra accountability for me that has meant so much. Whenever I feel like I’m so done with school because I’ve been in it forever, I know that I have people watching me that have my back and are pushing me.“
Boyd, along with the other 2019 scholarship recipients, was honored during AAHA’s annual conference last May. Boyd was also named as a Council for Affordable and Rural Housing national scholarship winner 2016.
“My hard work did pay off,” said Boyd. “All the long hours of writing essays, being involved in so many extracurricular activities, and maintaining leadership roles in high school led me to be a national winner. I’m so honored for that.”
For more information about the resident scholarship program, please contact Arrice Faught, AAHA’s executive director, at [email protected] or 205.758.1158.