Every student at South Puget Sound Community College has a story leading to their pursuit of higher education, whether it is to advance or change their current career path or to develop new skills. A vital part of that story for many students are scholarships, particularly those offered by the SPSCC Foundation.
A staff of volunteers with close ties to the college evaluates scholarship applications after they are submitted. Each cycle, volunteers are given anywhere between 10 and 20 applications to review, with each application being independently evaluated by two different volunteers. Volunteers then rate each application, utilizing a standardized rubric to determine the quality of the application, before a computer system decides specific scholarships a student might be eligible for.
Students seeking Foundation scholarships submit a single application, containing their transcript, course of study, letters of recommendation and a personal essay. With one application, students can be considered for a variety of Foundation scholarships. Last year, the SPSCC Foundation allocated over $525,000 worth of scholarships and grants, with each award ranging from $100 to $4,000.
Chris Dorn, a Learning Support Services administrator, has been a volunteer scholarship reader since he started at the college in 2013.
As a part of the college’s Learning Support Services team, Dorn has conducted workshops that have helped students craft their scholarship essays. Dorn says that the essay is a key component of the application, because it is the only chance a student has to inform the reader of who they are. “Everyone’s life story is different and their reasons for pursuing education are going to be different,” says Dorn. “The ones that really stand out,” he explains, “are amazing stories of overcoming tremendous difficulties and hardship in order to pursue education and those are always very inspiring.”
Through the scholarship applications, it is not only students who are affected by the process, but also the volunteers who read the essays and gain a better understanding of what led some students to SPSCC and what they plan to do with their education.
Carolyn Clark, an Event Coordinator at SPSCC, decided to volunteer as a scholarship reader over the summer. By volunteering, Clark has developed a new appreciation for students on campus, now that she is conscious of some of the hardships students have faced while in pursuit of higher education. “I think what touched me was the students who have gone through a lot in their personal life,” says Clark. There’s been a few times I’ve teared up, reading some of these scholarship applications.”
Dorn says that reading these essays are a humbling experience and it reminds him that those enrolled at SPSCC are more than just students; “It reminds me and kind of clarifies the impact that SPSCC can have,” says Dorn. “Because part of our mission is to help people achieve not just their academic goals, but their career goals. Hearing people talk about how they are changing career paths or how they’re going to open up economic opportunities for their family through getting a degree at SPSCC, that’s a good reminder that the work that we do here really does have an impact on students’ lives.”
After each scholarship is awarded, Clark says the culmination of the scholarship process is the annual Scholarship Reception, which takes place this year on November 13 at 4:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building Commons. At this reception, students come together with scholarship donors, creating a full circle moment for everyone involved in the process to connect. “The students can meet the donors that actually contributed to their scholarships,” says Clark. “And that is an extremely moving event.”
To learn more about Foundation scholarships, volunteer opportunities, donations and the reception, visit the South Puget Sound Community College Foundation website.