POPLARVILLE - The Asbury Foundation of Hattiesburg recently gave $350,000 to Pearl River Community College for scholarships and dental hygiene equipment.The grant will be used to further the education of students living in the eight counties served by the foundation, said executive director Bill Ray.They are usually students who stay at home and contribute to the Mississippi economy, Ray said. The money is well spent.A portion of the money - $150,000 - will be used to purchase digital imaging equipment, computers and software for the dental hygiene program at the Forrest County Center.This is a huge upgrade, said Dr. Stan Hill, program director.Students in the two-year program will learn how to manage charting and other aspects of a dental practice by computer as well as imaging, he said.Not everybody has gone digital in private practice, but it coming, Hill said.The equipment will be installed this spring, giving the instructors time to become familiar with it before putting it in use during the fall semester.The remaining $200,000 of the Asbury grant will be used for scholarships through the PRCC Foundation.Three full-tuition scholarships were awarded this semester, said PRCC Foundation executive director Ernie Lovell.Although the Asbury Foundation did not restrict the scholarship funds, the preference is to assist students enrolled in an allied health or nursing program. The Asbury Foundation charter requires recipients of its grants to live in Covington, Forrest, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River or Perry counties. Pearl River Community College is extremely grateful for the continuing support that the Asbury Foundation has shown with these latest gifts to the college, said Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president. Their partnership with our institution is vital to the success of our efforts to provide quality higher educational experiences for the citizens of South Mississippi.Dr. Janet Thornton, assistant to the dean of the Forrest County Center, was instrumental in preparing the grant application.The Asbury Foundation was created in September 1997 with $35 million in assets from the sale of Wesley Health Systems. The foundation awards grant to strengthen education and health care in South Mississippi.