DENMARK – A special kind of "call and response" occurred Sunday afternoon, Dec. 3, not at a church but at the railroad depot in Denmark.

Harriett Hammond, 1977 Denmark-Olar High School alumnus, called out lines of poetry from the poet Nashon Swanston (from the website) as part of her congratulatory speech to the Denmark Alumni Foundation's $1,000 scholarship recipient Keyonna Hilliard, a 2017 Denmark-Olar High School graduate and Frances Marion University freshman. Hammond asked Hilliard to repeat the lines in response:

“I refuse to fail.

I refuse to fall.

I will prevail.

I can conquer all.”

“Let (the receipt of this scholarship and your present progress) not this be your stopping point,” Hammond told Hilliard.

She also told her that if she needed anything in the future to reach out to the Foundation.

“Promoting excellence in education and service to the community, our mission, is what we strive to do,” Hammond said.

Samuel Burgess, president of the Denmark-Olar Alumni Foundation and business manager for the Department of Chemistry and Bio-Chemistry at the University of South Carolina since 1994, led the presentation and introduced other speakers. Burgess said he and other Denmark-Olar alumni started the foundation in April 2010.

“We decided to focus our attention on providing scholarships to college-bound seniors,” he said. “We wanted to have more than just cookouts with each other so we decided that forming a foundation was a way to give back.”

Burgess added, “We have given away $4,000 in scholarships in the past four years to five recipients. In addition to scholarships, we hope to in the very near future provide funding to support the school system."

“Our goal for next year is to do at least two $1,000 scholarships,” he noted.

Hilliard thanked the Denmark-Olar Alumni Foundation, God, her family, school officials, the mayor, local dignitaries and her friends for all of their support.

Her mom, Peggy Hilliard, said of her daughter, “I am very proud of her. I have always asked her how school was going and always checked on her grades.”

Larry Bias, chairman of the Bamberg School District 2 Board of Trustees, told this year's scholarship recipient, “On behalf of the school board, we want to congratulate you on your accomplishment.”

In addition to Burgess and Hammond, Denmark-Olar Alumni Foundation members include: Yolanda Keith-Grigsby, vice president; Bobbie Davis, treasurer; Elvernia Richberg, secretary; Dennis Brown; Michael Jennings; Lenell Geter; Patricia Major; Ernest Nimmons; Keni (Tracey) Bey; Allison Kirkland; Patricia Donaldson-Smith; Gloris Gilbert and Deborah Coleman-Void.

Burgess said the scholarships are made possible through fundraisers, such as their annual gala, a catered dance, which will be held this year from 8 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23, at the Leonard E. Dawson Health and Human Resources Center, Voorhees College. DJ Anthony Wright of Orangeburg will provide the music, and heavy hors d'oeuvres will be served. The gymnasium will be decorated for the holidays.

Tickets are $20 a person. For more information, email Burgess at or call him at 803-608-7010 .

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