Franklin resident Madison Brown told several dozen community leaders Tuesday evening how scholarship assistance from the Southwestern Community College (SCC) Foundation is helping her achieve her goal of becoming a paramedic despite a troubled childhood.
Another SCC student and Macon County resident, Cliff Burton, described how the foundation’s financial support is allowing him to find a new career pathway in criminal justice after the Great Recession dried up employment opportunities in his previous vocation as a land surveyor.
Brown and Burton offered their testimonies at SCC’s Macon Campus to emphasize how life-changing scholarship assistance can be even as college officials pointed out just how desperately more funds are needed.
Dr. Don Tomas, SCC’s president, said those are precisely the reasons why the foundation is launching a “Student Success Campaign” that aims to raise more than $1 million by Sept. 30, 2014.
“Last year, 225 students filled out applications and were deserving of financial assistance,” Dr. Tomas said. “But we only had enough money to award scholarships to 43 of those applicants. We want to do more, and we need your help.
“The students we help through this campaign will get a fantastic education,” Dr. Tomas added. “Our transfer students consistently perform better than those who started out at four-year schools. On licensure exams such as health science and public safety training – as well as real estate and a variety of other disciplines – our students’ pass-rate is usually in the upper 90s if not 100 percent. And we consistently rank among the top of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges in the state system’s performance measures reports.”
Through a federal challenge grant, the U.S. Department of Education will match dollar-for-dollar the first $300,000 in gifts to the Student Success campaign.
At the event, the largest single donation to the campaign so far – a check for $33,333.33 - was presented on behalf of Macon Bank by chief operating officer Ryan Scaggs.
All funds raised will go into a Student Success Endowment and benefit students like Brown, who told Tuesday’s attendees that her scholarship has helped fuel her educational dreams.
“I grew up in a dysfunctional environment,” said Brown, who is 19. “From the time I was in middle school until I moved out at age 16, I was mentally and physically abused. I made a decision that I was going to end that cycle of hopelessness, and I needed some help. I made a decision to cut all ties with my blood relatives and moved into a loving, caring environment. … But the family I live with now is supporting 11 other children, so when it comes to school, I’m pretty much on my own financially.
“Without the help from the SCC Foundation, I don’t know where I’d be,” she added.
Jackson County businessman Charles Wolfe, who’s chairman of the Student Success Campaign, told potential donors to consider the fundraising effort as an investment in their communities since 90 percent of SCC’s graduates remain in the college’s service area of Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary after completing their education.
“For me, this is a no-brainer because these students we help become productive members of our community,” Wolfe said. “If you went out to get a haircut or had your car worked on or went to a doctor’s office today, chances are the person who provided you that service graduated from SCC.”