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Four graduates of Public Education Foundation’s Passport Scholars program have been selected to

receive grants that will reduce or eliminate their remaining college loans. From 2000 to 2020, PEF’s

Passport Scholars program provided more than 150 Hamilton County students with an opportunity to

travel anywhere in the United States to do advanced learning the summer before their junior year in

high school. This autumn, Kitty Caldwell, the founder of the Passport Scholars program, made funds

available to Passport Scholars who had graduated from college and still had college loans to repay.

The four women selected to receive these grants are:


  • Melody Ormond: A graduate of Red Bank High School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Ms. Ormond used her Passport Scholar fellowship to attend Young Women’s Writing Workshop at Smith College in Northampton, MA. She now works at the Humane Educational Society in Chattanooga.


  • Maria Ramirez: As a Passport Scholar, Ms. Ramirez attended a summer program at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. She went on to earn a BA from Sewanee: The University of the South, and an MA from University of Michigan. She now serves as a bi-lingual patient representative for the Hamilton County Health Department.


  • Laila Smith: Ms. Smith traveled to Putney, Vermont to study at The Putney School’s Summer Creative Writing program. Ms. Smith graduated from The Howard School and Warren Wilson College where she received her degree in Creative Writing. She is presently working at Tennessee Valley Credit Union.


  • Breniaha Womble: A 2014-15 Passport Scholar who attended University of Rochester’s Pre-College program in Rochester, NY, Ms. Womble graduated from Collegiate High School and Western Governors University, where she received her degree in Business Administration. She currently works at Unum as a business service consultant and volunteers as a Tennessee Promise Mentor.


Ms. Womble noted at a celebration, “The debt relief has been transformative for my education and my career aspirations. Freed from undergraduate debt, I am now pursuing my Master of Business Administration. This support has paved the way for advanced education and higher-level career opportunities.”


Dr. Dan Challener, President of PEF, emphasized the extraordinary achievement of the grant winners. “These four extraordinary women have courageously capitalized on opportunities available to them.

They now can pursue their dreams without worrying about repaying loans. Kitty Caldwell has set an

extraordinary example of vision and generosity that I hope other people in our community will follow.”


“We are so honored to support these four amazing young women in this way,” said Dr. Michelle Caldwell,

PEF’s director of College and Career success. “They each demonstrate the passion and commitment that so many of our students possess. When we support young people, great things can happen!”

Four Passport Scholars Win Grants to Reduce College Loans

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