Alums Johnson and Faught give back through Trees for Tuition Scholarship


Calder Johnson (left) and Jack Faught (right) at the Arizona Fields tree lot.

Cate Barton

The Trees for Tuition Scholarship, which awards 12 applicants $2,000, was created by Grady Class of 2017 alums Calder Johnson and Jack Faught. The pair’s Christmas tree business turned into the creation of the scholarship. 

Johnson and Faught first created the Trees for Tuition Christmas tree business in 2015 as juniors in high school, to make money for college. Now, they want to help other students pay off college expenses.

“We felt that the success of the business was owed to the brand identity,” Faught said. “Our senior year of college, we decided we wanted to continue to grow the business beyond our own college careers and felt like there was enough support from the community to do so. Creating the scholarship helped us maintain our brand, as well as give back to the community that made our business successful.”

Johnson and Faught said they were inspired to create their own tree service after working at the Inman Middle School Christmas tree lot.

“We figured we could sell Christmas trees for less than the competition and actually offer free delivery and installation by using my newly acquired pickup truck,” Johnson said. “We then figured we needed to come up with a name for our new delivery business, and since we were planning to use the money we made to help cover future college expenses, the name ‘Trees for Tuition’ seemed like a no-brainer.”

In their first year of their business, Trees for Tuition sold and delivered 30 Christmas trees. In 2022, they sold around 2,993 Christmas trees.

“We want to give back to the same community that helped us get to where we are now,” Johnson said. “Also, being able to work at and own a business that is truly helping others and not focusing on just making profits for itself is quite an amazing feeling.”

Trees for Tuition was able to hire more than 90 local high school and college students during Nov. and Dec. 2022, one of them being sophomore Hayden Sheehan. 

“I heard about Trees for Tuition through a few friends because a lot of people from Midtown work there,” Sheehan said. “It was the best job I could ask for [because] they had really flexible hours and good pay, which I think made it really good for high school students to work there.”

The scholarship is available to all Georgia high school or undergraduate students, but the scholarship description notes “Atlanta students preferred,” which includes all graduating Atlanta Public Schools (APS) students and APS alumni needing to pay off student loans. Johnson and Faught said for all $24,000 to stay in APS, at least 36 APS students need to apply. 

“We see our scholarship helping local students,” Faught said. “We felt like since our community so graciously helped us save up for our own school expenses, we could in turn do the same for the next generations.”

The scholarship’s only requirement is to write a 400-600 word essay about how to make the community a better place. The deadline for applications this year is June 1, 2023.

“We want this scholarship to be awarded to students who aim to make their communities and the world at large a better place,” Johnson said. “We want to invest in these students that want to work towards a better future, and investing in their education seems like one of the best ways we can make sure they succeed.” 

The Trees for Tuition Scholarship, unlike many scholarships, does not take grade point average or financial requirements into account.

“Financial need is always based on the parents’ income levels,” Johnson said. “However, while being at college, we found that how much money a student’s parents make does not always correlate to how much money they are receiving for their education. Oftentimes, finding any scholarships that they may be eligible for can be a challenge.” 

Grady alumna Melissa Drake has been working for Trees for Tuition for five years and has enjoyed the experience it has given her.

“I started working for Trees for Tuition because it seemed like a fun job to have over break,” Drake said. “The fact that they’ve been able to grow to create a scholarship is crazy. It’s amazing, and it’s a great way to uphold why they started the business.”