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Stories Past

Education in Motion:  The UCO Kinesiology Award Sponsored by The Aldridge Foundation

Gifts in Action StoryFor senior Shawna Bridwell, a potentially tragic event with her family inspired her to pursue a degree in Kinesiology here at the University of Central Oklahoma.

When she was a junior in high school in Washington, OK, her father suffered a heart attack, and his doctor told him he needed to change his ways.

"I wanted to learn how to take care of myself and to help others by teaching them how to be healthy," Shawna said. "If I can save just one life, it's worth it."

Her family was dealt another blow, though, when her mom was laid off from the General Motors plant during Shawna's junior year of college. Though her family never asked her to look for financial assistance, she took it upon herself to find some ways to help pay for college classes and activities like her sorority.

She got a job as an assistant and fitness instructor at UCO's Wellness Center and applied for and received the Kinesiology Award through the UCO Foundation.

"I saw her struggling and wanted to help. She always puts us first and never asks us for anything. I decided I wanted to do, that I needed to grow up and find a way to help," added Shawna.

The Tom and Mary Kate Aldridge Foundation sponsors the Kinesiology Award as a part of the UCO Presidential Partners Awards and Scholarships program. It's relationship with the UCO Foundation started in 1996 when the funds were given to create the Homer Coker Scholarship, honoring Dr. Coker, a retired UCO professor who was a mentor to the Foundation executive director Robert Aldridge's sons, Tom and Rusty, when they were students at the university.

Now, the foundation's annual gift to the UCO Foundation along with mini grants to other colleges or organizations within the University are some of the many ways the Aldridge Foundation continues to make a difference in people's lives.

Started in 1995 to honor Tom and Mary Kate Aldridge, the family saw the foundation as a way to leave behind opportunities for future generations to build their own success. Their intent is illustrated in their mission statement: "We believe that our community can be made the best it can be by helping individuals reach their highest potential."

Bob Aldridge looks for ways to fulfill that mission through the grant recipients, like UCO, he chooses.

"We look for those that will boldly carry our name into tomorrow. It is our great privilege to buy into their aspirations, ambitions, and dreams."

For Shawna, those dreams and ambitions include starting her own health and wellness spa for women and teens who have problems with their weight.

"I want to teach them about proper nutrition and working out. I want them love their bodies and not compare themselves to the Paris Hiltons of the world."

She's already been successful with her first client. Her and her father call each other everyday to make sure the other has worked out and is eating well.

(Photo:  Shawna Bridwell, a senior Kinesiology major from Washington, OK, received the Kinesiology Award, funded through the UCO Foundation by a gift from the Aldridge Foundation in April 2007.)