One family's generational connections to Samuel Ready
Rebecca Gale Powel (“Becky”) was just 11 years old when her mother passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm. At the time – the late 1940s – her father was a Baltimore City fireman, and she was an only child. Believing he was in no position to raise Becky alone, he enrolled her at the Samuel Ready School, a decision that changed the trajectory of her life.
“The school was transformative for her,” said her daughter, Anne Powel Davis. “Who knows what her life would have been like without her nuclear family there anymore.”
Becky was a seventh grader when she moved to Samuel Ready School, which was founded to serve orphan girls. She would graduate six years later, in 1955, with eight other students, and connections to the school that lasted for another 64 years, until her death in 2019.
Since students living at the school could return home only for holidays and summer break, they developed tight connections. Three of Becky’s classmates, a group that called themselves “The Big Four,” became her family, and later, aunts to Anne and her siblings. The Big Four would regale the Powels with stories of their mother’s youth – the time she burned her algebra books because she hated math, how they snuck out of school or secretly smoked cigarettes together, the relationships they forged with Mrs. Lewis, the tough headmistress whom they all adored.
The school prepared them for their individual paths. Becky became a registered nurse, while her friends became a lawyer, a college professor and a grief counselor. But they remained deeply ingrained in each other’s lives, speaking on a near-daily basis.
Those bonds are part of what kept Becky so connected to Samuel Ready, even after the school closed and Becky joined Samuel Ready Scholarships as an early member of its board.
“I used to say, anyone who stood still long enough around her would eventually know something about Samuel Ready Scholarships,” Anne said. “It would somehow come around – the mission was so important to her.”
Becky connected with her spouse of 59 years through one of her Big Four friends. Bill Powel was a dairy farmer, and they raised their children in Howard and Carroll counties. But they remained deeply connected to Baltimore City, where both of their families had roots.
While her own story differed from most of the young women benefiting from Samuel Ready Scholarships, Becky continued to see herself in each of them. She worked not just to raise funds for their education, but to make sure they understood how they belonged within the legacy.
“Her part-time job in retirement was Samuel Ready Scholarships,” Anne explained. “She just took on the mission of the organization. She pushed for raising more money, doing more for the girls. She would just love them and make them feel special. We used to say she mothered the world.”
Passing the Torch
Becky stepped off the Samuel Ready Scholarships board when she was 78 – and only after Anne promised to take her place. Anne had been involved in the organization for years, supporting her mom’s work to gather the scholars, first at a fall picnic and later at a spring tea.
“She was always on the events committee because no one could throw a party like my mother,” Anne said. “I work in education and she would get me to plan engagement activities at the picnic.”
By the time Anne joined the board in 2014, she clearly understood Samuel Ready’s mission and what it offered each student it touched.
“My parents raised us to value education and equity and justice and equality. And that’s what Samuel Ready Scholarships does for these young women. It transforms lives,” she said.
Letter from Board President: Tea Carnell
At Samuel Ready Scholarships, we carry an extraordinary legacy.
During his life, Samuel Ready was committed to impoverished girls in Baltimore in the 1800s, at a time when parts of our city resembled Dickensonian England. His conviction that girls and young women are worth fighting for, even when they have nothing, was the start of what has become over a century-long tradition of transforming people’s lives.
That legacy is now woven into the fabric of Baltimore. At a business dinner a few years back, I sat beside someone who lit up when he heard of my connection to this organization. He explained that his grandmother went to the Samuel Ready School, and her experience there changed his family’s trajectory. Many of us have heard similar stories, again and again, from families connected to Samuel Ready School or Samuel Ready Scholarships, with transformation as a resounding theme.
From the beginning, the legacy of the Samuel Ready School was not just about education. It was about caring for the whole girl. While many public schools of the time, offered formal, rote learning – asking children to, for example, memorize spelling words they would never use – the Samuel Ready School was held up as a model of progressive education. It offered not only academic training, but also the broader skills that would allow the young women to go out in the world and stand on their own two feet.
This is still our approach to the legacy. Our organization has neither the capacity nor the formal authority to respond to every challenge, but we jump in to solve problems when we can, working with our supported schools to consider the whole scholar’s needs, whether that includes providing additional funding for school lunches or summer enrichment activities, or building a network of support from alumnae and friends.
As I near the end of my tenure as president of the Samuel Ready Scholarships board, I’m proud that our trustees are strategically considering the future of the organization and how we can best serve the scholars. As always, our aim is to maximize their education and the opportunities it provides, providing the launching pad for their futures while steadfastly preserving a legacy that transforms lives.
Teresa “Tea” Burt Carnell
Scholar Alumna Profile: Mercedez Evans
Mercedez Evans grew up in Baltimore County, attending a small Catholic middle school before she started at St. Paul’s School for Girls (SPSG) in ninth grade. She graduated from SPSG in 2013 and returned to Baltimore after graduating from Spelman College in 2017.
My mom was adamant about me going to an independent school. She really laid the foundation that education is everything. Through an organization called B.E.S.T., the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust, I visited a lot of different schools. I had never really heard of St. Paul’s School for Girls before that, but I fell in love with the campus – it’s beautiful, and I enjoyed how real the students were. I thought, “I can actually see myself here.”
As the date to pay the deposit approached, the admissions representative said, “I don’t know if you should pay anything.” We were like, “Wait. What do you mean?” And she asked my mom for permission to apply for a scholarship on my behalf. Now that I work in admissions, I understand why you have to be vague about the process.
I was raised solely by my mother. She did not want that fact exploited in order for me to receive the scholarship. The representative assured her that it would not be, and a few weeks later I was awarded a full scholarship from Samuel Ready Scholarships.
As a child, I had no clue about the financials of my family – it really wasn’t my business. But as I got older, I looked up the tuition and asked my mom, “Why did we even apply to these schools since the schools were so expensive?” She basically said, “I just had to have faith that it would work out.” And, thankfully it did. Samuel Ready Scholarships provided a scholarship that took the financial pressure off my family.
At St. Paul’s, I learned to be a healthy risk taker and a person who thinks about others. It helped instill in me how important sisterhood is and how women can lift each other up, which is not something I had ever thought of outside of my family. I wanted that kind of environment after high school, so after I graduated from St. Paul’s, I went to Spelman College, an all-women’s historically black college. I was able to be part of the sisterhood of Spelman, which is amazing.
This is my second year working in admissions at St. Paul’s School for Girls. It has given me a brand-new perspective on Samuel Ready Scholarships because now I’m able to work with the current scholars. It’s challenging yet rewarding. I know exactly what they’re going through, and the students really appreciate that. I host monthly Samuel Ready breakfasts, and students use that as a time to connect with each other and to tell me what’s going on in their classes or in their lives – sometimes too much! It also gives me insight into what the students need, and I believe in taking care of them once they’re here. They call me their school mom.
Working in admissions and referring students to Samuel Ready Scholarships is a full-circle moment for me. I think, wow, someone believed in me so much that they thought I was deserving of this scholarship – and now I can be that person for someone else, helping to take away a little bit of the financial strain. My family just wanted to give me a strong foundation and gain the skills they knew I would need later in life. They wanted to make sure I went to a place where I was seen and heard. For Samuel Ready Scholarships to have made that all the more possible means a lot to me.
Scholar Alumnae Network
As our more than 300 Scholar alumnae are dynamic leaders in Baltimore and beyond, we are creating new networking and mentoring opportunities for Scholar alumnae.
In the Fall, Samuel Ready Scholarships alumnae and board members gathered at Blackwall Hitch Restaurant to connect and share experiences. It was an engaging and well attended event; stay tuned for future networking events for our Scholar alumnae!
Photo Credit: Steve Ruark
Are you a former Samuel Ready Scholar?
We want to hear from Samuel Ready Scholar Alumnae who attended one of our supported schools from 1978 – 2023! If you are interested in joining the Samuel Ready Scholar Network – an empowering network of Scholar alumnae -- please email [email protected].
Don’t forget to send updates to [email protected]. We want to hear from you!
Samuel Ready Scholarships
In April, the annual Samuel Ready Scholarships Awards Tea was graciously hosted by St. Paul's School for Girls (SPSG). This event provided an opportunity for Scholars, their families, school administrators, donors and Samuel Ready Scholarships board members to celebrate the Scholars’ accomplishments, including their contributions to their schools and communities.
Former Samuel Ready Scholar and St. Paul’s School for Girls alumna, Ebony Harley talked about her experience at SPSG and its transformative impact on her life.
At the event, we also honored the nine graduating seniors who will, in the fall, attend: University of Southern California, Howard University, Loyola University Maryland, Ursinus College, Carnegie Mellon University, Lincoln University, Towson University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. We are so proud of the graduating Scholars and can’t wait to learn where their studies bring them next.
Photo Credit: Jessica Leigh Photography
Samuel Ready: By The Numbers
Thank you to all of the donors that have supported the mission of Samuel Ready Scholarships. As a nonprofit organization, we count on our donors and we are deeply grateful for your contributions. Your donations provide scholarship funding that can transform a life.
A special “Thank You” to:
- Egenton~Roberts Foundation
- RobyDodd Family Charitable Foundation, Inc.
- The Kahlert Foundation
- Thomas Wilson Foundation
- McCormick & Co.
Samuel Ready Scholarships is a nonprofit organization that gives academically promising girls with financial need access to a Baltimore-area independent school education with opportunities to develop and excel.
Samuel Ready Scholarships provides full-tuition scholarship funding to specific supported schools for the Scholars selected by those schools (The Bryn Mawr School, Friends School of Baltimore, Garrison Forest School, Roland Park Country School and St. Paul's School for Girls).