JSU civil engineering major Joseph Thedford selected as national recipient of the Sallie Mae Bridging the Dream $10,000 scholarship

(Jackson, Miss) — Jackson State University freshman civil engineering major Joseph Thedford recently was selected out of more than 1,000 applications as one of 25 recipients of the $10,000 Bridging the Dream scholarship, sponsored by Sallie Mae in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

“As a recipient of the Bridging the Dream Scholarship for High School Seniors, I am thankful for the financial support the scholarship provides. Since my family and I no longer have to worry about school costs, I have more time to focus on my degree in civil engineering and my love of music,” said Thedford.

The goal of the collaboration between Sallie Mae and Thurgood Marshall College Fund is to provide $3 million in scholarships through 2024 to provide financial assistance to students representing underserved and underrepresented communities seeking access to higher education institutions. 

“By receiving this award, I am reminded that others value my education and are committed to my continued success,” added Thedford, who also plays bass drum in JSU’s Sonic Boom of the South.  

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Thedford shared that he chose to attend JSU because of the HBCU’s advanced engineering program and his love for the Sonic Boom. In addition to his Sallie Mae Scholarship, the drummer also received a band scholarship from JSU. 

“Scholarships can be a real difference maker in opening the doors of higher education, particularly to first-generation college students and those from underserved communities,” said Caron Jackson, spokesperson for Sallie Mae. “Our scholarship program and partnership with Thurgood Marshall College Fund continues to help remove financial barriers for those too often left out or left behind when it comes to accessing and completing higher education.” 

Jackson emphasized the company’s commitment to making higher education more affordable and accessible, understanding that financial assistance provides a safety net and directly addresses academic, social, and economic gaps plaguing underserved communities.

Thedford said his post-graduation plan is to establish civil engineering companies that aim to improve poorly designed public works in low-income communities.

“I always believe that you should appreciate where you come from. So when you become successful, you should give back. My way of giving back is to improve cities and infrastructure, so people do not have to experience similar infrastructure struggles that me, my family, and others have experienced,” Thedford said.  

Committed to understanding the problem of underrepresented communities in higher education, Sallie Mae regularly conducts research projects primarily focused on studying how families plan and pay for college. Consistent conclusions in their study reflect that first-generation college students need more support at the base level. 

“We know lifetime earning potential and educational attainment are closely connected. Our research continues to demonstrate, too, that those with a plan are better prepared to meet the cost,” said Jackson. “Bottom line: first-generation college students and those from underserved or marginalized communities need more focus, attention, and tools to access, afford, and complete their higher education.”