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Lisa HansenRCC students celebrate Ford Foundation scholarships

Alicia Hansen, Shannon McKay, and Elizabeth Thompson are among the 11 Rogue Community College students recently selected by the Ford Family Foundation to receive scholarships.

The Foundation’s ReStart and Opportunity scholarships are awarded annually to students from Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif. The renewable scholarships cover up to 90 percent of each student’s unmet financial need for college per academic year and can be renewed for graduate school.

Other RCC students receiving ReStart scholarships include Tami Williamson, Erin Ritenour, Christopher Heindel, Juan Gonzalez Rosillo, and Glen Briggs. Ford Family Opportunity scholarship recipients are Emmeline Hall, Kellie Quinn, Paul Parsons, and Nicole Laspina.

“I haven’t totally wrapped my head around all this, but I know it’s going to be life changing. . .it’s going to be huge,” said Alicia Hansen, who just completed her first year in RCC’s Human Services program. She’s received an Opportunity scholarship.

Eight years ago Hansen left Los Angeles to escape domestic violence; arriving in Grants Pass pregnant, broke and homeless, she lived in the Faith House shelter for two years. Soon after moving to Grants Pass, she got a job at United Community Action Network (UCAN) working on the network’s annual homeless count.

“So I was literally counting homeless and counted as homeless because I lived in the shelter,” she recalled. She also helped people pay utility bills, and her experience give her insights into the problems poor people face. “That’s why I went into Human Services. My goal is to help other women in transition,” she said, adding she is happy to be a role model for her 8-year-old daughter.

“RCC been absolutely wonderful, especially the Discovery Program. I was just really amazed how welcomed I was. There are so many opportunities at RCC,” Hansen added. “I came here with nothing, and now I have the Ford Foundation. I feel like doors have just flown open.”

Elizabeth ThompsonElizabeth Thompson grew up in Sam’s Valley and attended Crater High School but didn’t graduate.

“I just felt bad about not having a high school diploma. College has changed how I view myself,” said Thompson, now 43. She’s earned a 4.0 GPA and is incoming president of RCC’s honor society, Phi Theta Kappa.

Married for 24 years, with three children now ages 20 through 24, Thompson was happy as a full-time mother but longed to attend college.

“I love learning and always dreamed of returning to school,” she noted. She came to RCC 1½ years ago, passed the GED® exams, and enrolled in the Discovery Program.

“It’s amazing. They completely make sure you are ready for college and have the skills to succeed,” said Thompson, who plans to attend RCC two more years before transferring. She’s not yet sure what to major in but is increasingly interested in science.

“The scholarship means I can focus 100 percent on school,” she explained. “I had been working part time as housekeeper, so it means I don’t have to scrub toilets. I’m just blessed and lucky. It’s empowering and kind of amazing.”

Shannon McKay is aiming at a career in social work. She relocated here two years ago after losing her job as a bankruptcy counselor in southern California and Shannon McKaycompleted a GED® in 11 weeks in spring 2012.

“Then I submerged myself in college and discovered I was better at it than I’d thought. I had felt not worthy or capable before,” she said. A college prep class, Human Development 100, gave her a good foundation about what college provides. “I would not even had known about scholarships if not for that class,” she said.

McKay had always wanted to be a social worker, so RCC’s Occupational Skills Training program set up a three-term internship at the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center’s homeless program.

“I love my veterans and would love to be a case manager or social worker and work with and help educate families of aging vets,” McKay explained.

“Receiving the Ford scholarship really means I can achieve my goal of staying debt free. It would have taken much longer,” she said. “They saw something in me and believed I could do it. That made me feel I was worthy and capable of anything.”

She’ll spend one more year at RCC earning a transfer degree in human services, and then plans to attend Portland State University with a goal of earning a master’s in social work with a focus on gerontology.

“RCC has changed my life and lit a fire under me,” McKay said. “College is making me the person I always wanted to be.”

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