How a Coast company is helping educate its employees’ children

Mike Petters, President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries, talks about current operations and future projects in Pascagoula, Wednesday, July 29, 2015.
Mike Petters, President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries, talks about current operations and future projects in Pascagoula, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. SUN HERALD

Alesa Kline’s grandson will be able to attend pre-school at the same place her children were enrolled. Jerome Joseph’s daughter, Jordan, will get some help with expenses while she’s at Gulf Coast-Jackson County. And John Hernandez’s daughter, Sofia, has money she needs to further her studies at LSU.

All three families are part of the 78 recipients of the first Huntington Ingalls Industries Scholarship Fund, which was established earlier this year. The fund is endowed by CEO Mike Petters, who donated his $1 million base salary to fund scholarships for HII employees’ children.

In March, HII first announced that it had begun the process to establish a scholarship fund, working with Scholarship Management Services, a division of Scholarship America. The scholarships are open to dependent children of HII employees.

“I’m excited to see this scholarship program come together to help our employees’ children,” Petters said in a press release. “Whether in pre-school or college, these children will one day be our nation’s leaders, and I believe it’s our responsibility to give them the tools they need to succeed—and education is at the top of the list.”

Although only 78 scholarships were awarded this year, HII said in a press release in June that up to 100 scholarships annually can be awarded.

Kline, who is an administrative assistant for the quality directors, said her daughter missed the deadline to get her grandson, Brayden, into Head Start. The scholarship for the pre-kindergarten readiness program enabled the family to enroll the 4-year-old at Caswell Springs in Wade.

“This is wonderful. He can go to school where his uncles went and he’ll be close by,” said Kline, whose husband, William, is a 13-year veteran of Ingalls. “It’s just a blessing.”

Hernandez, a native of Colombia, has been with Ingalls for 27 years as a draftsman. He said, he, his wife Ligia and daughter Sofia opened the letter together his daughter’s first weekend home from LSU, where she’s studying kinesiology and celebrated at dinner.

“I feel very grateful that (Petters) would do that and I’m honored to be chosen. I’m proud of my daughter — she earned it — and proud of an organization that helps its employees with this kind of generosity.

“College is very expensive and every dollar, every penny helps.”

Joseph knows how expensive college can be. Eldest son Chris went to Southern Miss and now is at Texas Medical Center in recreational therapy. Son Jeremy is attending Jackson State. And daughter Jordan is in the vocation program at Gulf Coast-Jackson County in the family studies program.

“She wants to have her own daycare center,” said Joseph, who has worked at Ingalls for 30 years. He currently is a sign painter. “She’ll go two years there and then on to Southern Miss like her mom and her brother.”

Jordan, he said, has always been around children because her mom, Donna, has been involved in their church’s children’s program and in the Moss Point High School youth department. She’s been a volunteer at the daycare for four or five years, Joseph said, getting ready to enter her chosen field.

And with three children in school, scholarship money will help .

“Scholarships don’t pay for everything,” he said. “You’ve got groceries, gas, books ...

“Ingalls is doing a good thing by investing in their employees’ children’s futures. It’s a blessing.”

Kate Magandy: 228-896-2344, @kmagandy