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 non-member individuals. Since its inception, the AAHA resident scholarship fund has awarded more than $500,000 in college and vocational scholarships.
Class of 2018 student Alexus Tolbert relocated from a crime-ridden neighborhood to safe, decent, and affordable housing in Selma's Addison Way Apartments after she was shot three times.
“You are looking at a miracle. I was shot in my head, hands and chest,” said Tolbert. Bullets from a drive-by shooting in her neighborhood pierced the walls of her home and wounded Tolbert as she slept. “In the community I lived in before Addison Way, hearing gunshots was a common thing,” she said. “My mom ran into my room to tell me to get on the floor, but it was too late. I had been shot in my sleep."
Tolbert spent two weeks in intensive care and endured multiple surgeries before she was released from the hospital. She said, “When I got out of the hospital, we lived with relatives for three months because we were afraid to go back to our old home.” Thankfully, Tolbert, her mother, and her grandmother were able to move into a vacant unit at Addison Way, where Tolbert’s mother Valerie Wagner is the manager.
“This horrific experience was one of the hardest moments of my life, but God has continued to bless me," she said. "This experience has also taught me patience and to always have faith in God.”
Tolbert was eventually able to resume her junior year at Southside High School and finished with an A average. She even attended prom two months after her release from the hospital.
Tolbert says that her injuries and recovery made her feel powerless and worthless. Anyone who meets her can see that she is far from either of those. A dual enrollment student, Tolbert earned college credit at Wallace Community College while still in high school. When she completes her associate’s degree from Wallace, she plans to transfer to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to pursue a double major in biology and health sciences that will help her prepare for medical school.
“In the hospital, I had a neurologist,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him, I would probably be dead. That situation made me want to become a neurologist.”
The $1,500 AAHA resident scholarship will do much to help her achieve her goals. “My mom is a single parent,” said Tolbert. “I know she couldn’t put me through college on her own. Even with the help of my grandmother, they couldn’t put me through college on their own. So, this scholarship means a lot. We are thankful and grateful.”
For more information about the resident scholarship program, please contact Arrice Faught, AAHA’s executive director, at [email protected] or 205.758.1158.