Billie Gannaway Memorial Scholarships (BGMS)

A Little History

Rev. William O. Smith, the founder of A Stepping Stone Foundation (ASSF), had thought of providing college scholarships to underprivileged young people for a long time. After discussion with the ASSF board and long-time friend and education advocate, Mrs. Billie Gannaway, she donated $30,000 to seed the first scholarship awards in 2001. The idea then and still remains, that if our former preschoolers graduate high school, some scholarship money will be available to them all. We never know how much, but all they have to do is graduate high school and complete the application process to receive an award.

In the fall of 2018, Rev. Smith passed away and in his memory, a new scholarship was added to our program for outstanding applicants.

The Billie Gannaway Scholarship Now

Today, the scholarship fund totals more than $400,000 and is held at the Arizona Community Foundation. Each year, scholarship applications are due the third Friday in January, so this year the scholarship applications must be in the office or postmarked January 15, 2021. In recent years, the awards have ranged from $200-$1,200. Awards remain valid for two years only. A volunteer committee meets to review all the scholarships and makes the awards. 5-6% of the amount of money in the fund is divided up among all the qualified applicants.

Qualifying for the Scholarship Award

A qualified applicant is one who a) attended A Stepping Stone-funded preschool with family literacy program six months or more and b) who turns in a complete application on or before the due date. Special consideration is given to those seeking a career in education and who demonstrate good grades and community service.

A completed application includes:

  1. the one-page application sheet,
  2. a short essay (prompts are found on the application page),
  3. a copy of most recent grades and
  4. a financial information sheet.

Who Was Billie Gannaway?

Billie Gannaway was a woman who possessed wisdom, knowledge and understanding. She was the 10th child born to a family of migrant parents who had 15 children. As she followed the cotton crops, her high school and college education was postponed until her own children completed theirs. With genuine faith, she prospered. The wisdom imparted from her mother guided her life. Her mother’s words “most people would rather harvest than plant” have followed her own life journey. That knowledge molded her into a planter of seeds. Billie Gannaway understood the seed of strength embedded in the human spirit. A Stepping Stone Foundation is her soil and the children’s education and growth are the healthy sprouts! Scholarships will provide sunlight for the harvest.

Who is Harriet Ivey?

Harriet Ivey was the founding CEO and president of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust (NMPCT). When she announced her retirement in 2013, the NMPCT awarded A Stepping Stone Foundation $25,000 to be applied toward scholarships in her honor and those scholarships became known as the Ivey Stepping Higher Scholarships. They were awarded to five students and lasted five-years at $1,000/year per student (or until the student graduated). In the spring of 2019, Ms. Ivey contacted A Stepping Stone Foundation to let us know that she would continue to award $5,000 from another funding source each year. As of the 2021-2022 award year, these five $1,000 awards will continue. ISHS awards are picked from the regular application for BGMS.

Rev. William O. Smith Memorial Scholarships (WOSMS)

In 1989, the Rev. William O. Smith and many spirit colleagues began A Stepping Stone Foundation in the hopes of making our community a better place through quality education for those families with young children who needed it most. When he passed away in the fall of 2018, many supporters wished to name a special scholarship in his memory which would recognize one or two outstanding applicants who were visionary thinkers and had a passion for making our community better. This is an additional application page and is included in this packet. Only one or two awards will be made annually and if an applicant is awarded they are no longer eligible to reapply for the scholarship in a future award year. You do NOT need to answer those questions unless you are applying for this particular scholarship. The expected award will be in the range of $1,000-$5,000.

Stepping into College

Each fall, we invite any junior or senior in high school to a workshop explaining how to apply for these scholarships and others. We also go over some simple but important steps to college success for students who are the first in their family to attend higher education.

See some of our previous scholarship recipients on our blog!

Read Blog Articles

Apply Now

For students wishing to apply for our scholarships, please call the ASSF office at

602-843-8281 and request that a Scholarship Form be mailed or emailed to you.

(Selections Below Under Construction – Coming Soon!)

Apply for the Billie Gannaway Memorial Scholarship
New Applicants (still attending high school)

Apply for the Billie Gannaway Memorial Scholarship
New Applicants (out of high school)

Apply for the Billie Gannaway Memorial Scholarship
Returning Applicants

Apply for the William O. Smith Memorial Scholarship
Only one scholarship awarded per school year.
Past winners may not reapply.

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