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New scholarship for criminal justice students honors memory of alumnus, police officer

trevor arrowood graduation

Trevor Arrowood (third from left) celebrates graduation with (from left) cousin Holden Owens, sister Maddy Arrowood and cousin Lilly Owens.

By Bill Studenc

Family and friends of the late Trevor Arrowood, a Polk County native who died in 2021 after a three-year battle with cancer, have established a scholarship fund to provide financial assistance to future students majoring in criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University.

Following his graduation from WCU with a degree in criminology and criminal justice in 2017, Arrowood  began his career in public service as a police officer in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In June 2018, he learned he had a large mass in his heart. Doctors later discovered the mass to be cancerous.

“Though he endured years of chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries, Trevor never quit fighting and never lost his positive attitude,” said his father, Jeff Arrowood. “Trevor insisted on working from home – or from his hospital bed – throughout his treatment.”

After his death Jan. 5, 2021, at age 25, members of the Arrowood family formed a nonprofit organization called Trevor’s Gift. The group is composed of family, friends and community members who want to ensure that Trevor's legacy is honored through the awarding of scholarships to young men and women who wish to pursue criminal justice as a career path through WCU, said his mother, Kerry Arrowood.

“Trevor had such an earnest passion for his career in law enforcement and, more importantly, for the community he lived to serve. He had an energy and an enthusiasm about his work that couldn’t help but live on after his death,” she said.

Trevor Arrowood

Trevor Arrowood

A graduate of Polk County High School, Trevor Arrowood had wanted to become a police officer since he was a toddler, his father said.

“Trevor definitely felt in his element when he entered the criminal justice program at WCU. He was a bit surprised to find that his highly accomplished and respected professors were also happy to take time out of their day to get to know students like him,” he said. “He grew close with several of his professors, even accompanying one to a conference in Washington, D.C.”

While a student at WCU, Trevor Arrowood became a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, serving in leadership positions. “Trevor was always a sort of social butterfly, so it was no surprise to us when he soon joined the fraternity SAE. He honestly took the notion of ‘brotherhood’ to heart, and the friends he made during this time at WCU were there for him to the end,” Jeff Arrowood said.

To help raise money for the Trevor Arrowood Memorial Endowed Scholarship, Trevor’s Gift has held a variety of events including golf and cornhole tournaments. Through money raised by those events, the organization in March of this year contributed a total of $30,000 to create the scholarship fund, with $28,000 going toward the endowment, $1,000 for a scholarship to be awarded for the 2025-2026 academic year and $1,000 to be awarded in 2026-2027.

“We have been amazed at the overwhelming support we’ve received through our fundraisers,” Jeff Arrowood said. “We had to cap the number of players in our first golf tournament to 100, and those spots quickly filled up. We’ve also held two cornhole tournaments in downtown Tryon, which both had around two dozen teams competing and more than 100 attendees. All this has been possible thanks to a dedicated group of about 50 volunteers.”

The scholarship fund is designed to provide assistance to students majoring in criminology and criminal justice, with preference given to students from the North Carolina counties of Henderson, Polk or Rutherford and to those with demonstrated financial need.

“Scholarships dedicated to supporting aspiring professionals in this field play a vital role in shaping the future of law enforcement, criminology and criminal justice reform,” said Karen Mason, head of WCU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

In addition to providing financial assistance, scholarships also offer encouragement and support for students who are committed to making a difference in the criminal justice system, Mason said. “By helping to alleviate financial burdens, scholarships empower students to focus on their studies, engage in research, and pursue internships and experiential learning opportunities that enhance their skills and knowledge,” she said.

“In today's complex and evolving landscape of criminal justice, where issues of fairness and accountability are paramount, the support provided by scholarships is invaluable. It enables students to delve into critical areas such as community policing and evidence-based practices, thereby contributing to more effective and equitable approaches to crime prevention and criminal justice policy.”

Trevor’s Gift also sponsors the annual Trevor Arrowood Award, an honor given to an officer of the Rock Hill Police Department who demonstrates a true commitment to law enforcement, exceeds job requirements, exhibits professionalism and competency, meets each shift with positive energy and initiative, and possesses the determination to accomplish beyond what is normally accepted.

The Trevor’s Gift contributions come as part of WCU’s “Fill the Western Sky” comprehensive fundraising campaign, an effort to raise $75 million for the university’s academic, student engagement and athletics programs. For more information or to make a contribution to the campaign, visit, call 828-227-7124 or email

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