In higher education, scholarships equal superpowers.
That was the message Thursday morning as the Kankakee Community College Foundation celebrated both the students who have earned scholarships in the past year and the donors who have given them.
The college held its 12th annual scholarship event.
The activity provides an opportunity for donors to meet scholarship recipients and for the scholarship recipients to thank the donors. An estimated 165 persons attended a breakfast held on campus.
Riverside Medical Center sponsored the event.
During the current academic year, there were 190 scholarships worth $232,000 awarded to students. Many scholarships are funded by local families or clubs or area businesses.
KCC President Michael Boyd told the audience that scholarships change the lives of the students who receive them and often change entire generations of a single family.
Even though a community college is less expensive than a four-year public or private school, it still costs about $5,000 per year to attend KCC after books and fees are added in.
Many KCC students are working while attending school.
A scholarship often allows the student to dial back on the work hours and devote more time to studying.
That’s certainly the case for Diego Gonzalez, a Century Scholar recipient. Gonzalez spoke about his studies at KCC and his many jobs.
He echoes the saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Gonzalez works up to 30 hours per week at the Wendy’s restaurant in Bradley, On weekends, he also does gardening work. His other jobs have included picking up the canoes after trips for Reed’s Rent-All and washing the buses at Midwest Transit.
The youngest in a family of four, he hopes to become a physical therapist. A graduate of Kankakee High School, he played soccer for the Kays. He received physical therapy after an injury and was impressed by the career possibility of helping people.
He should graduate as a physical therapy assistant from KCC in the spring of 2021. He hopes to then go on to a four-year school.
Gonzalez said you often hear of students discussing different colleges as possibilities. For him, KCC was his only real option, but it is not one he regrets.
He said his story was “similar” to many other students and he was “humbled” when he was given the scholarship.
“Are you sure you want to give it to me?” he asked.
The Century Scholarship is one of the college’s most prestigious and covers all costs.
Gonzalez’ advice to the other students was “not to overreact to small problems.” Keep working toward graduation.
He credits his parents with instilling the value of hard work. His dad works at a nursery. His mom is a housekeeper at a local nursing home.
KCC now has established a single process for students to apply for all scholarships.
Applications for the next school year will open up Nov. 1 and run through March 1. For information, go to foundation.kcc.edu/scholarships.
A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.