Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A scholarship to honor an only child

If all had gone as planned, Alex Ervin would be awaiting a decision on his application to Appalachian State University and preparing to graduate from Myer Park High School in June.

But late on June 10, 2007, Alex was a front-seat passenger in a car with three friends that police estimated was traveling 92 mph on Colony Road, a stretch near SouthPark where the speed limit is 35 mph. The driver hit a curb, and the car lost control and flew into a tree.

Alex was two months shy of his 16th birthday when he died.

He'd talked longingly of enrolling at Appalachian State University in Boone. He found peace there, said his mother, Tricia Hodge of Charlotte.

"There wasn't the hustle-bustle up there; it was calm," she said. "He and I used to go up there as often as we could."

So now Hodge is trying to raise $40,000 for the "Alex Ervin Memorial Scholarship" to send a student from his Myers Park class of 2010 to Boone for four years. It's a way to honor her son and keep his memory alive. It also dulls the pain of her loss.

The scholarship would pay tuition and lodging for four years. She'd like to turn the scholarship fund into an endowment, so more students could go in her son's name.

"It gives me great comfort to talk about Alex and to do things for him or in his honor," Hodge said. "It's about the only thing that keeps me going. And it's a win-win situation. It's good for my heart, but it also helps another child."

After their son was killed, she and Alex's father, Paul Ervin, started a campaign to get teenagers to slow down. They took remnants of the car to high schools to show students what speed can do. They talked to students and printed up bumper stickers with the urgent message: "Slow Down for Alex."

They implore students to wear seatbelts. On that terrible night, all four teenagers were wearing belts. Alex was the only one killed. Belts, his parents say, saved the other three.

By his sophomore year at Myers Park, Alex had grown to 6 feet 2, an outgoing, fun-loving teenager. His father said he "lived life out loud." Yet his parents were particularly proud that he'd worked hard to get his grades up.

He loved the outdoors, especially the mountains -- thus the draw of Boone and App State.

Hodge has sent fliers about the scholarship to 1,500 corporations and individuals. Donations are slow in coming. The deadline to donate: Jan. 10.

She wants the scholarship to go to one of Alex's classmates who otherwise couldn't afford to go. She'll have no say in the matter. The scholarship will be administered by the ASU admissions office, with consultation from Myers Park guidance counselors, she said.

"My main mission and focus is to do it this year, Alex's graduating year," she said. "If I had the money, I'd just pay for the whole thing. I don't. But just doing this does me a world of good.

"It keeps me connected to Alex."

Want to help? Send donations to: Appalachian State University Foundation, Inc.
ASU BOX 32064, attn: Alex Ervin Memorial Scholarship, Boone, NC 28608. Any questions, call Laura Crandall at the ASU foundation at 828-262-2341, or e-mail her at