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WCC Foundation helps to make college possible

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 4, 2009 1:46 PM

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Brittney Small takes care of a patient during a dental hygiene clinic at the college. She was able to pursue a degree in dental hygiene because of scholarships she received.

The Foundation of Wayne Community College held its awards presentation and reception recently, with more than 100 scholarship recipients taking the stage due to the generosity of the many donors who keep the organization's scholarship program thriving.

Chairman of the Foundation Keith Gunnet, the organization's chairman, told the recipients that "the foundation is a lifeline that allows you to attend college and meet goals and dare to dream."

He said there are more students than ever in need of assistance and that the goal of the foundation is to help as many deserving young people as it can.

"They face the increasing costs of education with less resources," Gunnet said. "And they need this education more than ever to survive and succeed in these tough times."

Some scholarship recipients were young. Others were less so.

Rebecca Dezern, a 36-year-old wife and mother of three, told her story to those attending. She received scholarships from Dixon Foods and the Civitan Club.

"Like many of us here tonight, I found that I did not qualify for other avenues of financial aid. I thought that my dream of a college education, of providing a brighter future for my children, was suddenly out of reach. It looked as if the door was shut, that there just wasn't a way for me to go."

She said she learned about the foundation's scholarships.

"These scholarships go way beyond just allowing us to attend classes. Through them and the education we receive from the wonderful faculty here, we will go on to our prospective careers better prepared for what is to come."

Mrs. Dezern said if it wasn't for the scholarships, she would have to take a minimum-wage job, which would barely even pay for her children to go to afterschool programs.

Kristy Tillman, 31, is a single mother of three and has received scholarships from Wayne Memorial Hospital for the past three semesters.

Her mother, 50-year-old Joy Pearce, also received a scholarship when she attended the college after being laid off from her job at the age of 43.

"In order to be able to give it your all, you really need to have the money flow. Without the scholarships, there's no way I could have done it on my own, trying to work and go to school," she said

She graduated with a degree in information systems and works at the college now.

"I don't get child support for my children so my income is the only income," Ms. Tillman said.

She works part-time as a secretary in the physical therapy department of the hospital.

Ms. Tillman decided she wanted to go into nursing eight years ago and follow in the footsteps of her grandmother. She began taking a course a semester, taking classes at night so she could continue working during the day.

"I think the scholarships are great because if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be here, no way," she said.

Nineteen-year-old Brittney Small got her scholarship from the Sugarfoot Shag Club to pursue a degree in dental hygiene. She said it helped her be able to concentrate on school instead of how she was going to come up with the money to go to school.

"The scholarship donors are wonderful," she said. "They help out a lot of people. A lot of us couldn't do it without them."

Kay Bradley represented the Shag Club at the event. Although it's a small group -- only 200 members -- the club decided it wanted to help students with their education and donates $1,000 annually. Members said they plan to do so again this year, despite the slow economy.

Ms. Bradley said some of the stories she's heard from recipients "tugged at my heart."

"These kids have their lives ahead of them and they need somebody to help them out," she said.

Many of the students are working and have families, so it's not easy to go to school, she said.

"But they do it because they know education is where it's at and what they need to do."

Foundation director Jack Kannan praised the donors who gave the scholarships, saying no gift is too small.

"Most of our students get Pell Grants," he said. "We want to help students who have a need but may not qualify for a grant, such as the single mom who's working a full-time job. About 65 percent of our students receive some kind of assistance, grants, federal and state money and scholarships."

Kannan has seen many success stories at the college and has even seen scholarship recipients who graduate and become donors themselves.