A scholarship can make an immense difference in the life of a student. There were many examples at the event. There could be 150 new examples in the years ahead as nearly $167,000 in scholarships were handed out Thursday at Kankakee Community College.
The scholarship winners lined up in the KCC main hall that day for a signing event. Scholarship winners visited a number of college-themed booths with information about KCC services and how to succeed in college, then they posed for photos in front of a special KCC backdrop.
“This is a special moment,” KCC President Michael Boyd said. “This event underlines the generosity of our community and so many people who give. It is also a tremendous symbol of progress. By being here today, these students get a good start on their college education. It’s a journey that ends with their commencement.”
Jairo Bucio was a double winner. Jairo, a 2018 graduate of Kankakee High School, received two scholarships. He was a Century Club Scholar, an award based on academic achievement. Jairo aced the first two college classes he took at KCC as a part-time student.
After graduation from high school, he took a year off from studying. Meanwhile, he was working as a shift manager at Coyote Canyon. Bob de Oliveira, a now retired Kankakee High School teacher and administrator, kept bugging Jairo to get into college because he knew his potential.
De Oliveira and his husband, Bill Sole, also funded a scholarship awarded to Jairo. That grant was aimed specifically at helping students who have emigrated. The double award means Jairo’s second year at KCC will be fully paid for — even including books. He’s still working, but does “not worry so much about the finances anymore.” The link between Jairo and the scholarships donors is more than financial. He describes de Oliveira as an inspiration.
Jairo said he did better in college than he expected and that he owes a great deal to others.
“I got a lot of help from teachers,” he says.
KCC graduation, he says, is likely about three semesters away. After that, he hopes to go on to study at Governors State University with an eventual goal of becoming a physical education teacher.
Other thankful students included Diego Garcia, a Century Scholar and the recipient of the George and Lura Lynn Ryan Scholarship. The Kankakee High School graduate is in a physical therapy assistant with a target of becoming a physical therapist. Rhonda Addison of St. Anne is a past Century Scholar studying to be a nurse. As a child, she had a disorder that would lead to seizures if she had a fever. Now she works helping in admitting at Riverside Hospital.
Later she plans to be a sign language interpreter as well as a nurse because, she says, it is important to give back.
P.J. Thompson, the new executive director of the Kankakee Community College Foundation, says that donations can be made to the college at any time through the KCC website, kcc.edu.
The college, though, is having a special “Give Day” Aug. 27 with the hope of raising $50,000, with all of that targeted to help students — some through scholarships and also through student services.
This year KCC was able to name its scholarship winners early. That was a result of so many volunteers poring through applications to pick the most deserving students. When the awards are made early, students are more likely to choose to attend school.
Scholarship applications are open from Nov. 1 to March 1, again at kcc.edu. President Boyd says that there are occasional scholarships that do unused because no qualified student applies. Some scholarships are targeted to specific careers or students from specific schools or towns.