By Ariel Worthy
Times staff writer
It was Zaria Ball’s first day back after missing almost a month of school, and she was not ready to be back.
Until she got a call from Darrell Hudson, principal of Parker High School.
“Mr. Hudson was like ‘You’ve got to come to school today,’ and when he called my dad it was a wrap; I knew I had to come.”
Zaria, 18, spent four weeks by her mother’s side at the hospital as she battled colon cancer. Her mother, Marnelia Bowdry, lost her battle on April 8.
“It was hard,” Zaria said. “I just wanted to stay at home with my grandma and my sister.”
She is doing better now, just taking each day slowly.
Last Thursday was Awards Day at A.H. Parker High School and Zaria sat with her peers as they listened to Alabama State University President Gwendolyn Boyd speak to the Class of 2016.
“I have one more very special scholarship to give today to a very special young lady,” Boyd said, referring to Zaria.
Boyd presented Zaria the first Rosa Belle Crawford Scholarship in the amount of $50,000.
“It’s for students who have great potential and just need that ray of sunshine, that ray of hope that says ‘You are going to make it,’ and we are going to help you get there,” Boyd said of the scholarship.
The scholarship was for students who had worked hard and overcome adversity and challenges.
An emotional Zaria covered her face as her classmates stood and cheered for her. Her grandmother, Marion Ayers, and her father, Steve Ball, ran to her and surrounded her with a hug.
“I was nervous,” Zaria said after hearing her name. “I started crying because I was not expecting it at all,”
Boyd said she understood Ball’s situation because she had also lost her mother to cancer at 13.
“My heart absolutely goes out to those young people who have a tremendous loss early in their lives,” Boyd said. “We’re going to look out for her and make sure she gets the very best of whatever she wants to pursue at Alabama State University (ASU) and beyond. We are going to be there for her.”
Principal Darrell Hudson said no one is more deserving of the scholarship than Zaria.
“She’s been great,” he said. “I’ve seen her blossom into a great young lady; she has matured tremendously, and I expect to see great things from her in the future.”
Zaria wants to study sociology at ASU and pursue a career in that field. She would also be the first from her family to graduate from college.
She said her mother, who also attended ASU, would be proud . . . “her first baby is going to college. She didn’t finish, so she’d be like ‘oh, my goodness you’re going to college,’” Zaria said through tears.
“She pushed education,” Zaria said. “Since she didn’t finish, she would always tell me, ‘I need you to go college.’ It’s something she has always instilled in me.”