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Released September 29, 1999


HATTIESBURG -- The two latest recipients of Oseola McCarty Endowed Scholarships at The University of Southern Mississippi share their famous benefactor's belief that hard work and good values will overcome most of life's obstacles.

Dacia Haralson of Hattiesburg, a 20-year-old Southern Miss senior, and Kenya Lee of Lumberton, an 18-year-old freshman, recently became the eighth and ninth winners of the full-tuition, $2,400 scholarships for the 1999-2000 school year.

McCarty, 91, who spent nearly a lifetime washing and ironing other people's clothes, gained international fame in 1995 after she willed $150,000 of her life's savings to establish a Southern Miss scholarship for deserving students in need of financial help to pursue a college education.

Seven McCarty scholarships had been awarded earlier, financed by a matching fund-raising drive that has raised more than $330,000 through the Southern Miss Foundation. Three of those earlier scholars have already graduated from Southern Miss.
"Our prayers came through when I got one of the (McCarty) scholarships," said an excited Lee, who said she was on the verge of accepting a full band scholarship to Jackson State University when news of the Southern Miss offer came just before the fall term began.

Lee -- who was active in student government and sports at Lumberton High School, and was valedictorian of her graduating class -- said she had hoped to spare her parents, Henry Lee III and Peggy Lee the "burden" of financing her college education. She plans to major in psychology and hopes to work with at-risk youths.

"My parents never gave me a chance to go wild, do unnecesssary things or get into trouble," said Lee, who works part-time as a chemistry laboratory assistant while taking a 17-hour class load. "They've always pushed me to get an education, to always seek something better in life...

"I haven't had a chance to thank Miss McCarty personally, but I hope to do that," added Lee, whose father holds down two jobs as a Lumberton policeman and offshore oilrig worker, and whose mother is a Medicaid eligibility worker.

Haralson, who graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 1997 but already is classified as a senior at Southern Miss, said she is majoring in sociology and one day hopes to teach at the community college level. She plans to graduate from Southern Miss in August of 2000 and then pursue a master's degree at the University of Tennessee.

"I didn't want to leave the South," said Haralson, whose mother, Elaine Magee, recently earned a degree in social rehabliltation at Southern Miss and works as a nursing assistant at Forrest General Hospital.

"We took some classes together," Haralson joked, in a reference to her mom. "Things I thought were easy she had trouble with. But she said, `I'm your mother and you've got to help me.' It was kind of weird, but it worked out okay."

Haralson, whose father, Allen Haralson, works as a food services manager, said she enjoys performing volunteer community service work and has learned a lot in her job at the Pine Grove mental healthcare facility. She said she never had any doubt she would get a college education.

"I haven't had anything given to me on a silver platter but I didn't want to just settle for anything," she said. "I knew I'd have to work for what I got. But it's good for me to have to work hard because I know I'll survive in the end...

"If you have a passion for something, someone else can feed off that positivity," said Haralson, who found out about the scholarship on her 20th birthday and has since met McCarty. "I think sociology was my calling...

"I'm not trying to be a millionaire," she added. "Being rich don't make you happy. As long as you have family and are happy with yourself, that's all that matters."



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