Monday, April 28, 2014

April 2014: COA Foundation Hosts Annual Scholarship Lunch

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2014
CONTACT: Lisa Johnson,
Development Officer & External Relations
Release No: 29LJ-PR-2014

 COA Foundation Hosts Annual Scholarship Lunch

Shortly after getting married last year, Amber Anderton was preparing for her second year of study as a medical office administrator at College of The Albemarle when she realized she wasn’t going to be able to complete her degree.  Her new husband earned too much to allow her to qualify for the Pell Grant which had financed the first year of her Associate’s in Applied Science.

“I lost my financial aid,” Anderton said. “Without it, I would never have been able to afford college myself.”

Fortunately, Anderton was one of 105 students who received a scholarship from COA’s Foundation during the 2013-14 school year.  The Foundation’s financial assistance – donations provided by alumni, businesses, clubs and organizations - amounted to nearly $150,000 this year.

These scholarships are critical, said Angie Godfrey-Dawson, COA’s director of scholarships and student aid, because without them these students would have been unable to finance their educations.

“We have a large number of students who – without the scholarship assistance – they would not be able to attend,” Godfrey-Dawson said. “Some qualify for state aid and it’s just not enough to continue. They just don’t have the budget to cover those expenses."

Anderton received the Alma and Chester Biggs Memorial Scholarship, a grant established by Bruce Biggs in memory of his parents. It was just one of the 146 scholarships the Foundation awarded this year.

Biggs and his wife decided to start the grant years ago, as a way of honoring his parents.

“My mom and dad didn’t finish high school,” Biggs said. “So they knew they wanted their children to have an education. I guess that’s what provided the motivation.”

Because of the importance Biggs’ parents placed on education, he and his five siblings all went on to attend college. Biggs attended East Carolina University where he studied business – he is the owner of Biggs Cadillac, Buick, GMC Trucks in Elizabeth City – but he had to borrow the money for college.

“I guess I just saw that as someone helped me, so I should help someone back,” Biggs said.

Anderton is grateful for the financial assistance. Without it, she said, she wouldn’t be graduating in May. She hopes to land a job at the Children’s Hospital of The Kings Daughters in Norfolk.

“It was much appreciated,” said Anderton, who is graduating with a 3.8 GPA. “I wouldn’t have been able to complete school at all. I didn’t have the money for school or books.”

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college,” she added, “so it’s a big deal.”

Another annual grant awarded by COA’s Foundation is the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) Foundation Community College Scholarship. The statewide organization funds students at all 58 of the state’s community colleges, both curriculum students and those in workforce development programs.

This year, the SECU Foundation Scholarship enabled 12 COA students to pursue their educations.

“The Foundation is all about improving the lives of North Carolinians,” said Cindy Emory, SECU’s vice president. “We believe it makes a huge improvement. We just think this is a hands-on thing we can do to help.”

Katelyn Fry is one of the recipients of that help. In December, the SECU Foundation funding allowed her to graduate as a Certified Nursing Assistant. The grant funding paid for 100 percent of Fry’s three-month course.

“I wouldn’t have been able to go without it, so I’m very thankful,” Fry said. “I wanted an education.”

Fry’s mom, Kathy Camden, was another recipient of SECU’s scholarship funding. The former registered nurse had to leave her job as director of nursing at an area nursing home facility after her multiple sclerosis became unmanageable and prevented her from working.

Camden decided to take a workforce development program at COA that would allow her to earn her certification for medical billing and coding. It’s a job that would enable her to work from home. Currently, she is studying for the state certification exam.

“I’ve been out of work and have not received any form of payment since August,” Camden said, explaining her need for the scholarship. “It’s been rough.”

“But I’ll get back up there,” she added, “It’s just going to take a while.”

Rebekah Brown is another COA student who will be graduating this May thanks to the school’s Foundation funding. Brown received the Lucy Vaughan Endowed Scholarship which was established in 2009 by the COA Student Theatre, or COAST. It was named after Lucy Vaughan, a long-time theatre arts director at COA.

Brown will graduate with her Associate’s in Arts degree, in Art, and hopes to eventually transfer to a four-year university when she saves enough funding for tuition.

“I’ll probably have to work for a year or two first,” Brown said.

On Brown’s right ring finger, she sports an eye-catching wooden ring. Her own handiwork that took long hours of carving from a larger piece of wood. The deeply brown ring seems to change shades depending on how the light hits it, and Brown said most people would never guess it’s not carved from walnut or some other finer wood.

Instead, Brown said, she makes these wooden rings from the simple wooden pallets you find in grocery stores.

“Usually those pallets are made of really tough wood,” Brown said. “People don’t expect that. You look at it and make a snap judgment.”

Brown said her rings – created from rough wood that at first no one would notice – are similar to what the COA Foundation does for its students.

“They take people and turn them into something,” she said. “COA gives them the opportunity to become something strong and amazing.”



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