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Lower Columbia College

The Lower Columbia College Foundation distributed a historic amount of scholarship money this year, handing out more than $400,000 for the first time. A decade ago, it awarded only $34,000.

“I think our foundation has become a lot more active in spreading our message and reaching out to donors and alumni from our community,” said Kendra Sprague, vice president of the LCC foundation.

For this academic year, the foundation added 15 new awards and $46,000 in scholarship offerings. In total, the foundation distributed $420,000 to 195 students.

Of the 133 scholarships offered by the foundation — some of which go to more than one student — 131 were funded completely by donations (the other two are financed with grants).

Sprague’s team accepts scholarship donations all year, and she said her office makes a concerted effort to raise awareness about why community members and alumni should donate.

“I think there are more and more students that fall between the middle, where they don’t qualify for financial aid but their families don’t have enough money to send them to college. Scholarships can fill in those gaps,” Sprague said.

With rising costs of higher education, donating to scholarships is one way the community can support students “educational endeavors,” Sprague said.

Donors usually have a tie to the college, but almost all donors are simply motivated to help current students, Sprague said.

Sheila Burgin, assistant director of the LCC Foundation, said donors often find their contributions to be most meaningful when they “see a face behind the student” receiving their gift.

“It’s great to be able to share the students’ stories. ... It’s about the relationships and the connections with the college, so we do bring donors in for campus tours and information sessions,” Burgin said.

Mackenzie Taylor, recipient of the J&S Nursing Scholarship, shared her story as one of two keynote speakers at a “scholarship social” thanking donors last Thursday.

Taylor, 33, said the social gave her a chance to thank donors backing her scholarship, which covers full tuition for the nursing program.

“As a mom, my focus is on my family, and I don’t have the same opportunities to work or study that some of these young people do,” Taylor told TDN Monday. “This scholarship has allowed me to really find an incredible balance as a student and as a mom, and that’s been the most important thing to me.”

Scholarship donors may designate their award go to a students studying in a specific discipline. For example, Taylor’s scholarship is specific to nursing students.

“The donors said they started this scholarship because about 30 years ago there was a young woman taking care of a relative of theirs, and she was so compassionate and smart, but she was just trying to get to (and pay for) nursing school,” Taylor said.

Donors can also direct funds to cover certain costs for students, including tuition, books or “any other cost associated with attending college,” Burgin said.

And it’s rare that a donor’s gift goes unused for the year, Sprague said.

“We do our very best to have all our scholarships awarded. If we find there is a scholarship in a particular program we did not get a match for, we will reach out to faculty in that area so they can encourage students to apply,” Sprague said.

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