A new scholarship established at Augusta University supports students who aspire to a career in special education. On Oct. 20, during Augusta Gives, Augusta University’s inaugural giving day, the College of Education celebrates veteran educator Ruth Ann (Joseph) Vericella and her gift of an endowed scholarship for AU education students.
Vericella is a 1987 graduate of Augusta University with an Education Specialist in Administration and Supervision. In addition to her Jaguar pride, her passion for special education moved her to commit this scholarship to students who will dedicate their career to creating educational pathways to students with different needs.
“There are plenty of non-traditional students out there who do better when their differences are considered. They learn better; they perform better,” Vericella said.
Scholarship recipients will be chosen from applicants based on academic success with a preference for those with financial need.
Vericella’s gift has the chance to make a real impact in education, according to Dr. Judi Wilson, dean of the College of Education.
“We are so grateful for her generous gift to support scholarships for special education majors in the College of Education. Because this scholarship is endowed, it will be awarded year after year in perpetuity. By removing barriers and opening doors for future educators, she is changing lives,” Wilson said.
Dr. Jessica Simpson, assistant professor of special education, said the need for special education teachers is so great that often a district may be forced to hire uncertificated teachers.
“We definitely need a new generation of special education teachers who are capable of working in multiple settings with variety of disabilities and who are ready to make a difference in a child’s life,” she said. “We want to create an educational opportunity that leads to community opportunities and life changes.”
Vericella worked in education for 30 years, starting in California, then Ohio and Florida. But she spent the majority of her career devoting her expertise in teaching, special education, and administration to Richmond County schools. She worked at Butler High School, Josey High School, Laney High School, the Academy of Richmond County, Lake Forest Hills Elementary School, and the now-defunct Forest Hills Elementary School and William Robinson.
Vericella started her career in the days when “open concept” classrooms were all the rage, and saw many trends in education pass. But one thing remained constant for her: “The kids are wonderful. I loved it,” she said.
Vericella said implementing advances in special education actually helps all students, as everyone learns differently. When teachers apply techniques to differentiate instruction in any classroom, they can find new ways for traditional students to understand and retain new information.
“Because I learned other ways to teach the non-traditional student, I saw many successes. It made me feel good. We had students win statewide awards and it was just wonderful,” she said.
Vericella’s passion is reflected in her family. Her daughter, Toni Cliatt, is an assistant principal at Evans Middle School in Columbia County. Her son, Sharn Vericella, is the program manager of professional scholars for the Augusta University College of Science and Mathematics. And her husband, Dr. Biagio J. Vericella, served as dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences and is currently dean emeritus.
“It has been such a delight to get to know Mrs. Vericella and her family,” Wilson said. “She is a passionate educator who has devoted her life to serving others. She has been a classroom teacher and school administrator, so she understands and values the importance of excellent teacher preparation.”
The Ruth Ann (Joseph) Vericella Scholarship will begin awarding once the fund matures; until then, Vericella is generously donating an additional $1,000 each spring. If you are interested in contributing to this scholarship or other College of Education scholarships and programs, learn more here.
If you are interested in establishing a scholarship with the College of Education, please contact Jason McKenzie, associate director of philanthropy, at 706-721-1817.