Higher education seems to get more expensive every year, but Northeastern Junior College students are fortunate to have many generous scholarship donors who help make it affordable for them. Saturday morning students and their donors got a chance to get to know one another at NJC Foundations’ annual Scholarship Donor Appreciation Breakfast.
“Today is about thanking generous community members and faculty who have given to your education, and we want you to know that we are on your side and we are there for you,” Vivian Hadley, executive director of the NJC Foundation, told the students. “But it’s also about honoring our wonderful scholars who have chosen NJC for their education.”
Following her remarks, Commander Michael Stevens of Sterling VFW Post 3541, a student at NJC, gave a trumpet performance of “Taps” in commemoration of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In his remarks, NJC President Jay Lee recalled where he was on that day. A law enforcement instructor in Rochester, Minn., as a member of the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards In Training Board he was to serve on a panel in St. Paul, Minn., where he would have a conversation about law enforcement conduct with about 300 police chiefs and sheriffs. After hearing the news about the first plane striking the World Trade Center as he arrived at the convention center where the event was to be held, he hustled inside and saw 300 officers quickly bundling up their stuff and heading out of the building.
“They were hurrying to get back to their homes because they knew that they needed to be there to support their communities, their officers and the people that they protected. They also needed to be there to make sure that their agencies were ready for whatever might happen in the country,” Lee said. “I was struck by the urgency within all of those officers, those men and women that led those departments, they just knew that they had to get back and they did so because they lived a life where they served others.”
That same desire to serve others can be found in the donors who provide scholarships for NJC students.
“They are people who are serving others through their ability to do so and in this case they are choosing to serve you the students of Northeastern. They don’t have to do that, but they are in a position where they can do it and they are choosing to do it,” Lee said.
Jim Smith, president of the NJC Foundation Board, spoke about the experience that he and his wife, Vickie, have had as donors to the college. As with the other donors, there is a place in their hearts for NJC. Many of the donors attended NJC themselves and their children have also gone to school there.
“We do recognize that NJC is a very integral part of our community, yes financially and economically. But more importantly, each year we get to have a wave of young adults integrate into our community and with each of you, you bring something new to our community. We get to learn and grow from what you bring, and the hope is we can give that back to you also,” Smith told the students.
He spoke about getting to know many NJC students over the years and the blessing of in some instances being able to build relationships that have continued on and evolved into him and his wife becoming part of the student’s family.
“We can now tell others we have family not only in Colorado where our kids live, but actually all over the world. We’ve had that experience by hosting, getting to know the students of NJC,” Smith said.
In closing, he made a request to the students who are now attending NJC, “please remember us, come back, stay in touch with us. Maybe someday this will be your home.”
Next, Mike Anderson, chair of the NJC Agriculture Department, spoke about the five social institutions that all societies that have endured for any period of time must have – family, religion, economics, civic government and education. He noted like the legs of a giant table, the institutions are spread out far enough that they support the weight of the rest of society, and if one of the social institutions or table legs is removed, the table will collapse, society will devolve.
“We all believe that the importance of this journey through higher education is for you to understand the nature of society and eventually, as our founding fathers believed, the only way to keep our society and our form of government and this concept of freedom that doesn’t exist everywhere in the world, is to have an educated citizenry,” Anderson said.
He encouraged the students to learn how to think for themselves and decide what our society is about, what is important and what freedom means to them.
Anderson remarked that everyone is concerned about the cost of education today, but fortunately for students at NJC, many will be able to leave without any debt whatsoever and part of that is due to the generosity of scholarship donors.
“They are making an investment; they can invest that money in a lot of other things, but they’re investing that money in you, in the hope that you will be the next generation to answer some of the difficult questions and problems that we face,” he told students.
In return for that investment, the students were encouraged to take the opportunities presented to them, challenge themselves, think for themselves, ask questions and value their time at NJC.
“And, when you get to the top of your mountain, all the struggles of climbing that mountain, turn around and help the next person up. Remember these gifts and when you are able, help the next person up,” Anderson told the students.
Lastly, Brandon MeInikoff, a scholarship recipient, spoke about the struggle he had when trying to determine what higher education institution he would attend. As he was bombarded with college information, he felt overwhelmed, lost and helpless. Then a friend suggested he reach out to Tim Stahley at NJC.
“From that very first conversation with Tim, it became clear to me the type of place NJC was and for the very first time in my journey to find where I would go to school, I felt like there was somewhere I belonged,” MeInikoff said. “Those universities they did seem a class all of their own, but I knew that deep down at the end of the day when that fancy football stadium was empty or I was the last one in that state-of-the-art-classroom I would be homesick, not because I missed home, but because I didn’t feel at home. I would have been just another number. I am blessed and I am lucky, just like every other student here today, that NJC had its doors open and welcomed me home.”
He spoke about the type of students that attend NJC, noting they have grit and they are relentless. Some students go home every weekend to help on the family farm or ranch, some juggle a job and school to support themselves and their families and others are the first in their family to go to college or they have taken a leap of faith to venture from another country to Sterling, Colo., for their education.
“Our Plainsmen have a lot on their minds, they have a lot on their hearts, but they also have a lot on their plates and it’s because of generous scholarships like our Foundation scholarships that lessen that financial burden and allow our students to have one less thing to worry about, so that they can dream bigger, chase their goals and change the world,” MeInikoff said.
The NJC Foundation has over 500 scholarships available and has awarded over $300,000. To give to the Foundation, go to https://www.njc.edu/northeastern-junior-college-foundation.You can also call 970-521-6603 or email email@example.com.