OLIVETTE, MO (KTVI) - He was wrongly convicted of murder and spent nearly a decade behind bars before an appeals court set him free. On Saturday, Ryan Ferguson shared his story with Ava’s Grace, a scholarship fund providing support for students who have seen one or both of their parents sent to prison.
Stephanie Regagnon founded the organization after her own mother was convicted of an arson her family believes someone else committed.
“I really wanted to turn the situation into a positive situation,” said Regagnon. “It was really bringing us down in a whole lot of ways.”
Regagnon invited Ferguson to speak because she’s impressed with how he’s remained positive.
“If we’re positive, if we give ourselves hope, if we believe in ourselves, then great things will happen,” said Ferguson.
Four students received scholarship ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 annually. Also in attendance were students who are currently receiving Ava’s Grace Scholarships.
“I was at this breaking point in my life where I thought I was not going to be able to afford college,” said Cari Hill.
She praised Regagnon for not only starting a scholarship fund but for also providing emotional support.
“I hope to become a district attorney and prosecute sex offenders,” said Hill.
Hill was sexually abused by her father who is currently incarcerated.
“This scholarship foundation has actually helped me realize that I really want to give back to my community similarly to how they gave back to me.”
“Often these kids are a forgotten population and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that they’re going to become a statistic,” said Regagnon. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
She believes by investing in both a personal and financial level, the scholarship money will pay for itself.
Follow Jeff Bernthal on Facebook and Twitter:
Jeff Bernthal on Facebook
Jeff Bernthal on Twitter