Creating a Community College Scholarship

In 2007, I graduated from Nassau Community College with my Associate of Arts degree. Since 2012, I have sat on the NCC Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, which has given me some invaluable experience working with both faculty and administration and getting a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of academia. Through the Alumni Association, I’ve also had the opportunity to give back to the campus community in some really meaningful ways. In the past, I created four multimodal scholarships (rather than write essays to win the scholarships, students created videos, sound clips, posters, etc.), won funding for important events on campus (like the IDEAS Symposium that I’ve written about in the past), and helped to increase our on-campus visibility, our interactions with students, and our alumni recruitment considerably. Recently, we’ve become an even more active presence on campus.

One morning a few months back, I drove to campus during a snowstorm for a meeting that ended up being cancelled because of the weather. Since I was already on campus, I decided to pass through the psychology building on my way back to the parking lot to see if a former professor of mine would be in her office. Since I hadn’t seen her in over eight years, I was happy when I found her door open…and that she actually remembered me! It was great catching up, and during the course of conversation, she mentioned that she uses the Children’s Greenhouse, a remarkable daycare facility on campus, for her two young children. She sang praises for the staff there, but even more for the strong-willed students who fight every day to stay in school despite the formidable challenges of raising children- often as single parents, often as teenagers, often while working full-time, and often without support from family. I was moved, and I thought back to a meeting I had last fall with the head of the Suffolk County Community College Alumni Association, who said that one of their most meaningful purposes on campus is finding ways to support struggling student parents on campus. I suggested the possibility of the Alumni Association offering some sort of support to some students there, and she was so excited and so grateful.

Children's Greenhouse Wall

Children’s Greenhouse Wall

Well, months went by with weekly, if not daily, emails back and forth about what kind of support to give, how much, how the application process would work, how the distribution process would work, etc. The Alumni Association was very supportive of the idea from the start. Many of the women on the Alumni Board had attended NCC as parents and knew how hard it could be to balance family and school. They gave their full support, and we moved along quickly.

On Wednesday, May 13, 2015, we finally got together for the ceremony. Six young women were each awarded a laptop, which the Children’s Greenhouse Board had decided was the best gift we could give them. Among the numerous reasons for this is the following:

Receiving a laptop would be functional and meaningful to many student parents. Not all students have access to their own computing device.  Therefore, they have to find additional time to go their public library or a campus computer lab during the day.  This often necessitates either more hours of childcare or bringing their child(ren) with them.  Many student parents are only able to do school-related work at night after their children go to sleep.  Having a personal laptop would make this easy and efficient.

The six young women were full of gratitude, offering profuse thanks (one of them even dancing around), but I was no less affected than they were. It was incredibly humbling to be in the presence of such strong, determined human beings. I knew ahead of time that the ceremony might be an emotional experience, but there was no way to prepare myself for some of the stories the women had to share, and several times I found myself at a loss for words. These are women who work full time, mother full time, attend school part or full time, often with additional stresses and hardships, and yet somehow they find a way to remain positive and enthusiastic through all of their challenges. I remember being proud of my own achievements when I was at NCC, but my own achievements do not compare with those of these radiant young mothers. Here’s one more heartfelt congratulations to all the laptop recipients and to all those whom I did not meet, but who have their own stories, their own trials, and their own challenges.

Here are some pictures from the ceremony:

Handing out laptop awards to student parent recipients.

Handing out laptop awards to student parent recipients.

From left to right are two laptop recipients, myself, Jennifer (another Alumni Board member), three more laptop recipients, and my former psychology professor, Diana.

This recipient was dancing and singing out of happiness! Her enthusiasm made everything so meaningful and worthwhile.

When I left the ceremony, I was so grateful to be able to have such a meaningful impact on so many lives. It may not seem like a huge deal, but six laptops in the hands of six young student parents who did not have computer access previously can be revolutionary to six lives…or twelve lives if you include one child for each of them. I’m excited to find the next opportunity to make a difference!

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