MANASSAS, VA (WWBT) - Some students say their dream of getting a college degree is in jeopardy, and they're losing faith that a church in Manassas will ever award them The scholarship money they were promised.
The complaint impacts more than 300 students, and The scholarship money in question totals nearly $2 million.
Pastor John Payton of The Reconciliation Community Church in Manassas is a well-known and upstanding pillar of The community, but three struggling Old Dominion University students say they were counting on that money for tuition.
They told me that my whole first semester would be paid for," Asia Woolfolk said. "I had put in this $5,000 scholarship, and now that I don't have it, I'm set back applying for loans."
Woolfolk had to incur a loan debt, and another student, Karlissa Dillard, said she hopes to work out a payment plan with The school. "They're wrong and I feel like they're deceitful people that used us," she said. Dillard had to drop out of school, and said she might attend community college back home instead.
The church says its prayer is that finances will be available soon, and it blames a problem transmitting investments.
To get The award, students had to write an essay and be present at a mass gathering at The National Mall back on July 12. The event flyer shows a big festival with great gospel singers and more.
"They had like five cars given away. It seemed like a great thing. It was really nice. I"m not going to lie," Woolfolk said. "But it was like, you did all that and you don't receive anything?"
Pastor Payton canceled his planned interview with NBC12, saying his attorney and church members told him to. When NBC12 drove to Manassas to confront him, Payton and another man walked out and confronted us in The church parking lot.
Payton said 353 students were supposed to get $5,000 scholarships on Dec. 31, 2014. No one has, and no one got a car, either. He aid The church is giving away almost $2 million out of its pockets, but there's a delay and he has no control over it.
The ODU students say it's a breach of contract.
"They have all our personal information, for one," Woolfolk said. "They know that we were expecting this money. They told us like on The paper, a contract, they told us. It says we will get it. They're supposed to do it."
"This setback has put us back a lot by not getting this money. It's a very big impact in our lives," Dillard said.
A third student, Alisha Reynolds, had a final message for The pastor. "It's hurtful. We shouldn't be left in The dark about a scholarship this big. If you were having financial issues, we should have been notified immediately," she said.