By Callie Jones
As the cost of attending college grows for some students scholarships are the only way that they could ever afford to continue their education. Saturday, scholarship recipients at Northeastern Junior College had a chance to say thank you to those who have donated to make their higher education journey possible at the college’s annual Scholarship Donor Appreciation Brunch.
“Today is about bringing together our students with our community members who have supported them and believe in them, to have time to share a meal together and to visit,” said NJC Foundation Executive Director Vivian Hadley, telling the students, “the people here all believe in you. We believe in what you have that you’re going to bring to the future, we believe in what you’re going to bring to the table today andwe are proud to set an example for you.”
To the donors, she pointed out that the students are “our future leaders of commerce, of business, healthcare, agriculture and these are the people who will lead the generation following them to succeed” and thanked them for supporting the students.
NJC President Mike White spoke about the incredible work the NJC Foundation is doing to actively recruit in the community to get donations. He noted there are 13 colleges in the Colorado Community College System, some with much larger headcounts than NJC at 15,000 students, and yet despite its small size NJC’s Foundation is number two for fundraising.
“I think that just points to the dedication of this team and this community and what they want to do every day to raise money to support our students. I think it’s pretty remarkable when we have schools 10 to 15 times our size that can’t match the level of engagement of this Foundation and this community,” White said.
Jim Smith, NJC Foundation Board President, thanked college personnel for their efforts and the donors “who volunteer to share the success that they’ve experienced.” He noted they all have some reason or story for why they do what they do, it may be honoring family members who have passed away or just helping the profession that they have lived.
“They have a gift of sharing and giving, they are the reason we have the NJC Foundation. Thank you donors without your help and your support we would be nothing and we do, we have great success with the Foundation and it’s something I’m very proud of,” Smith said, encouraging the students once they have created their own lives and stories to remember NJC and the NJC Foundation.
Mike Anderson, chair of the NJC Agriculture Department, pointed out that scholarships are more important than they’ve ever been in terms of the financial needs of students and the cost of college. He told the students one of the reasons why donors give of themselves and give this gift is because they love NJC “and they want to afford you what we have gotten from this institution” and he encouraged them to learn their donor’s story and to pass the value on that was given to them with this great gift.
Scholarship recipient Tristan Holland, an agriculture student, spoke about opportunity, sharing that in the past few years he’s lived opportunities he could only dream of while serving as a Colorado FFA State Officer. Once he was finished with that he could not have been more excited to have the opportunity to return to NJC. But, he was worried that things might have changed since he left and that the opportunities he hoped for might have passed him by while he was wearing the blue jacket.
“I am proud and excited to admit that those opportunities are still here, they’re still open to the dedicated NJC students,” Holland said, thanking donors for giving him the opportunity to succeed at NJC.
Another scholarship recipient, Cristen Houghton, a second-year nursing student, thanked the donors for the huge impact they make on students at NJC. She spoke about her sister, a graduate of NJC, who always spoke about the college and the memories she made there and the amazing teachers, and that influenced her to enroll and stay at NJC.
“It’s like a family here. I think that’s a big reason why I chose to stay here at NJC, instead of going off to a four-year, just the amazing staff,” Houghton said.
She shared that thanks to the scholarships she has received she will be coming out of nursing school debt free. Those scholarships were particularly important to her as she comes from a single-parent home that didn’t have thousands of dollars saved up to put towards college.
“I believe I can speak on behalf of all of the students in this room right now, we are just so grateful for every ounce of support and financial help that we can get,” Houghton told the donors, noting that that college and “adulting” can be hard, “but with your help, you take off that tremendous weight on our shoulders.”
She went on to tell the donors, “It feels so special to know that we are deserving of your time, effort and hard-earned money and just so you know, you will never be taken for granted on my part. Your investment in our future drives us to succeed and seek out more education.”
One final scholarship recipient, sophomore Joao Fonseca, from Brazil, who is the Associated Student Government First Vice President, the first international student to serve on ASG, spoke
about deciding to come to NJC. At first, it was simply because he wanted to be a studentathlete and play on the soccer team, but when he arrived on campus he knew the opportunity that he had to be there would be life- changing.
“Meeting a new culture and new people is amazing for me and to get to know all of the community of Sterling, all the people that come here from different backgrounds. You are all part of it, you are all part of the dream that I’ve been dreaming of since I was in Brazil praying for four years to come,” Fonseca told the students and donors. “I am very, very glad that this is the place I got to be.”
He went on to share that what really made him have certainty that NJC was the right place for him is the people he has met and the experiences that he’s been able to have. When he first came he was concerned with classes, practice and games.
“I didn’t think all the time between classes and practice would be so much fun, would mean so much to me,” he said.
Being able to experience his first Thanksgiving, playing golf for the first time and other firsts have been amazing and those experiences, along with the people at NJC, have made it special for him. Fonseca pointed out this experience has been the foundation and base for everything that he is going to be.
At the close of the brunch, Bob Plank, who at 90 years old has spent many years working to secure numerous scholarships for NJC students, said a few words of thanks.
“It’s been so fun and so rewarding to help all of the students,” said an emotional Plank.