The Central Oregon Community College President’s Scholarship luncheon held last week was a heart wrenching reminder of the impact education has on our lives. It was particularly noteworthy as it featured people within our community who have had a difficult time and through the help of COCC Foundation scholarships have turned their lives around.
The COCC Foundation was established in 1955 with a first year’s achievement of $5,000. In 2007 assets managed by the Foundation total over $10 million dollars. In fiscal year 2007-08 $630,000 in scholarship dollars were awarded to 450 students.
Imagine this: the total scholarship dollar awarded to people within Central Oregon from 1956-2006 is an astounding $4.7 million.
Last week we heard from just three of the COCC students who have had the strength and courage to change their lives by getting a degree from COCC. From a young mother who once was nearly homeless and became the first person in her family to graduate from college (she will graduate this spring as a paramedic) to a 38-year-old father of two who is just about to become a teacher and a young woman with already a lifetime of challenging stories that include physical abuse who is about to because a nurse.
These are the people who despite their backgrounds have broken the mold and will become leaders within our communities and will be superb examples of how education can change a life.
COCC President Dr. James Middleton calls the college the Central Oregon Disaster Relief Center’….noting the significant increase in enrollment – up 25 percent this year – in large part due to the challenging economic climate and people seeking to improve themselves through education with the goal of finding better employment.
“Often, community colleges serve as an emergency gathering place during times of disaster such as fires, floods or earthquakes. Over the past year, Central Oregon Community College and other community colleges in the country are serving as gathering places during a different type of disaster— the current financial crisis. People are not coming for food and shelter; this time they are coming for education and a brighter future.”
The scholarhips presented by COCC Foundation are the catalyst that encourages and makes it possible for these students to get their education. How does all this happen: through people like John and Nancy James (this year’s president scholarship award recipients) and from other well known companies and community leaders in the past including Karnopp Petersen LLC, Kirby and Cathy Nagelhout, Richard and Carolyn Hofstetter , Carlson Sign Company and Paul and Kathie Eckman.
Jim Weaver, executive director of the COCC Foundation, ended the luncheon with a quote from Emily Dickinson that summed up the astoundingly successful foundation and its impact on our community: I dwell in possibility.