One thing about Cougars: They always have your back. And once you’re part of the Cougar Pride, you’ve got all the support you need.

One way they support each other is through Alumni Association scholarships, including the Society of the Alumni Scholarship. Named after one of the Alumni Association’s predecessors, the Society of the Alumni which was founded in 1848, these scholarships have been awarded since 1961, are funded by the Alumni Association Scholarship Endowment and are open to all CofC students.

Courtney Hicks (Photo by Reese Moore)

Two of those students are Society of the Alumni Scholarship recipients Courtney Hicks and Katie Stagliano.

“It is an incredible honor that the alumni of the College of Charleston have invested in me, and I want to make sure that I graduate having made the most of my four years as well as respect and honor all the alumni who have made this scholarship possible,” says Stagliano, a sophomore majoring in communication and minoring in environmental and sustainability studies. “It has taught me greater responsibility, and I want them to be proud of the student I am and how I represent the College.”

Hicks – a senior who has received the Society of the Alumni Scholarship for three years in a row – agrees.

“This scholarship, to me, is the encouragement to continue to be the best Courtney I can be,” says the senior communication major. “Obtaining this scholarship has pushed me to be one of the best students that the donors ever invested in, and lets me know that I am doing notable work to make the College of Charleston and the world great!”

RELATED: Read more about Collegiate Curls.

Hicks and Stagliano are certainly doing their part to make the world great: In 2016, Hicks launched Collegiate Curls – a natural hair empowerment organization focused on celebrating diversity through healthy hair and skin care practices – at the College of Charleston, and it now has chapters at several other institutions. More recently, she has created the Courtney C. Hicks Student of Ambition Scholarship, a book scholarship for students exemplifying essential leadership skills.

Stagliano started a nonprofit organization, Katie’s Krops, to empower children to create vegetable gardens and donate the harvests to people in need. That was over 10 years ago; today there are over 100 Katie’s Krops gardens across the United States.

Katie Stagliano (Photo by Mike Ledford)

“The Alumni Association has been so supportive of me and my dreams, as well as the other incredible recipients,” says Stagliano. “They have allowed me to focus on my academics and my philanthropy work. I am able to serve my community in my free time and I am so grateful to the Alumni Association for this opportunity and their support.”

RELATED: Read more about Katie’s Krops.

And the support of the Alumni Association is also helping Hicks to meet her goal of attending the College debt free.

“The removal of stress concerning the fiscal aspect of attending an institution of higher learning helps me to be able to focus solely on my work and extracurriculars that shape my future,” says Hicks. “In our generation, it is easy to think that in order to be successful in academia you have to have a plethora of student loans and debt. However, through the generosity of the Alumni Association and other philanthropic groups, you can not only excel in your studies, but also excel debt free! Apply for everything you see! You never know what opportunities may be open for you if you never try!”

And once you try, says Hicks, you’ll know just how much support you really have – especially from CofC alumni.

“Seeing the hard work and dedication that goes into funding student scholarships is a refreshing thing to see,” she says, adding that she can’t wait to pay it forward. “Receiving this scholarship along with others has helped me develop a love for philanthropy and giving back. Once you graduate, that is not the end of your journey into coming to know thyself. I have learned that the best way to know thyself is by selfless acts of encouragement unto others.”

And that’s exactly what Cougar Pride is all about.

Featured image: Courtney Hicks (left), Katie Stagliano (Right). Photo of Courtney Hicks by Reese Moore. Photo of Katie Stagliano by Mike Ledford.