Donor links form new college lifeline

November 16, 2008|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Keisha Hogan, 28, of Columbia said that without a scholarship to Howard Community College, she would have to work more hours, which would be difficult to balance with classes, studying and caring for two children.

"Every little bit [of scholarship money] works towards something, because college costs," said Hogan, who has a 9-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. "Scholarships allow us to free up the time to go to school."

Last week, Hogan and more than 80 other students had an opportunity to express their appreciation in person to the sources of their financial support at HCC's student/donor reception on the Columbia campus.

"It is nice that donors have the opportunity to connect with the people they sponsor," said Hogan, who received two scholarships to help her study human services and education. "It is nice for us, too, because we want to see the people who are sponsoring us."

Jim Truby, chairman of the college's board of trustees, concurred with the notion of a two-way benefit.

"It is an opportunity for students to tell their stories, and it is an opportunity for donors to impart a bit of wisdom," he said.

Encouraging relationships between the college and donors is particularly important at a time when the country is facing a financial crisis and community colleges can expect enrollment and financial aid requests to rise significantly, Truby said.

Even though Howard County is known as an affluent area, 34 percent of HCC students come from homes with incomes of $40,000 or less, he said. Fourteen percent have family incomes below $20,000.

One-third of credit-earning students at the college benefit from scholarships and financial aid, Truby said. At the beginning of the fall semester, before the most serious economic problems began, requests for financial aid were up 17 percent over the previous fall.

"I am not sure I want to think about next year," Truby told those who attended the reception. "When I say we can't do it without you [the donors], it is not just a platitude, it's the reality of our situation."

Through individual requests and fundraising events, such as the Columbia Grand Prix horse-jumping event, the college's education foundation raised $2.7 million for scholarships, programs and grants last year.

The college's donors come from all parts of the community, including businesses, community service organizations and individuals. They provide more than 160 named scholarships in addition to financial support for other college programs.

Victoria Cook of North Laurel said the Silas Craft Collegians program, which assists students who struggled academically in high school, has made a significant difference in her college career. The program includes scholarships for all participants as well as academic support, group activities and leadership opportunities.

Despite how she fared in high school, Cook said that knowing she was accepted by the Craft program at HCC encouraged her to work harder to graduate from Reservoir High School in 2006. She said she likely would have gone to college without the program, but "I wouldn't have had the support. I would have been just another student."

Cook said that with the support, in particular, she does not have to seek a higher-paying job off campus and can instead get involved in the campus community through a job at HCC's welcome center.

Ruth Limburg of Columbia said she was discouraged when she arrived in the United States from Barbados with her infant son and could not find work.

"I felt defeated," she said. "College seemed out of the question when my son needed to eat."

But she also knew a college degree was the key to making a better life and that she wanted to be a role model for her son.

After she enrolled at HCC, Limburg, 34, received scholarships from Lockheed Martin and the McCuan Family Foundation that helped her take more classes each semester and in the summer and winter sessions. She is pursuing a degree in information systems management and plans to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County next year.

"Now I have a sense of accomplishment, not defeat," she told the audience at the reception.

The new scholarship Andrew Goresh established in his wife's memory has not been awarded yet, but he said he is eager to hear a success story next year.

Pamela Makowski Goresh had a passion for writing and, after earning a master's degree when she was in her 50s, a strong desire to teach others. She was excited to get a position teaching first-year composition at HCC, Andrew Goresh said.

"She wanted to see people as excited about writing as she was, and hopefully make their paths easier than hers," he said.

Pamela Goresh taught for only a few months before she died of cancer. Her husband established the $1,000 annual scholarship with donations from friends, families and some of Pamela's students. It will benefit a student, chosen by the English department, who shows promise as a writer.

Goresh, a human resources consultant from Columbia, said next year's donor/student reception will be "an opportunity to meet a student and see [the result of] what is intended to be a gift to the future." The scholarship is an opportunity to "create a legacy, a living legacy," he said.

"It is a rekindling of the contribution she wanted to make," Goresh said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.