GREENSBORO -- The relationship between North Carolina A&T Athletics and Walmart continues to strengthen.

Over the summer at the Greensboro Walmart on 121 Elmsley Drive, Director of Athletics Earl Hilton, Associate Athletic Director for Development Jennifer Thomas and fellow Board members of the Aggie Athletic Foundation (AAF), Sandra Hughes , Jim Pender and Jim McLeod, met with Walmart and more than 30 Walmart vendor partners to discuss how various companies can support future fundraising efforts for Aggie Athletics.

John Brewer, manager of Walmart's 121 West Elmsley Drive stoe, and Charles Benberry (Walmart Regional Merchandising Manager), organized the meeting. The original idea to develop the partnership between Walmart and Aggie Athletics was facilitated in 2008 by McLeod.

"This is about scholarships for student-athletes," said Hilton. "My job today is to try to separate you from your money."

Hilton later told representatives assembled, including Walmart store managers Cindy Landwehrmann (Battleground Avenue) and Larry McAvoy (West Wendover Avenue) that A&T awarded 173 scholarships for the 2011-12 academic year. He then demonstrated the need for more support by pointing out 325 student-athletes competed during the same time frame, meaning many sports went without the funding needed to compete effectively.

"It takes about $3.5 million each year to support all of our student-athletes," Hilton said. "It is important we as a community support these young men and women. Most of our student-athletes need some type of assistance in order to attend college. We want the ability to send students to college that otherwise would not have the opportunity."

The A&T athletics department and Walmart have an ongoing five-year relationship. In 2011, Walmart, additionally, assisted the AAF in conducting an auction at the Koury Convention Center that raised funds for the department. Walmart representatives have also attended various A&T events, including  Homecoming, basketball and football games, All-Sports Awards Banquets, and, most recently, North Carolina A&T's 2012 Commencement , featuring First Lady Michelle Obama as keynote speaker.  Walmart has been instrumental in conducting an annual pre-Homecoming fundraising event at the Walmart Elmsley Drive location. North Carolina A&T State University has 15 varsity sports which compete over the course of the academic school year.

Walmart wants to further the business relationship by involving more of its Vendor partners.  Among the companies represented at the July meeting were Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Kelloggs, Kraft, Nabisco, General Mills, ConAgra Foods, Krispy Kreme, Voortman and Neese's.  

"We are very excited to be a part of what is going on at A&T," said Pepsi representative, Lisa Tew. "I get it, I embrace it, and I love it when you try to separate me from my money. The fact that we are going to be giving student-athletes an opportunity is something we should openly embrace both personally and professionally."

Tew was born and raised in Greensboro, and is a graduate of Greensboro Dudley High School.

"I know the culture of North Carolina A&T," she added. "The culture behind homecoming and what it does for the city, economically, is tremendous."

Pepsi was recently renewed to be the official soft drink provider for North Carolina A&T State University.  

Brewer also expressed excitement about being associated with Aggie Athletics. In the last year, the athletics department has produced six student-athletes with 4.0 GPAs. Ninety-eight student-athletes earned a 3.0 GPA or higher.  During A&T's May Commencement, 45 student-athletes graduated.

In June, track and field long and triple jumper Jared Baldwin was named the MEAC Man of the Year. Mike Mayhew, a running back for the resurgent A&T football program, earned MEAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. This summer, he was named the MEAC's preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

"We really want a partnership with (A&T) because homecoming has such a big economic impact on (Walmart)," Brewer said. "Back in 2007, an additional 30,000 people came to town for A&T's homecoming, and generated an economic impact of $11.8 million for the city of Greensboro.  A tremendous amount of people have ties to A&T and support our stores. It's a win-win to be able to partner with (A&T), and to generate scholarship money."