Sheena Downey of Kennewick turned her thoughts to a new career several years ago as her three sons grew up.
“I’d always dreamed of being a nurse,” said Downey, 34.
But there was the question of money. Going to school would leave her husband as the sole breadwinner, she said. But she managed to get her first two quarters at Columbia Basin College paid for through a worker retraining program. And scholarships — the latest for $4,000 from the CBC Foundation — have covered the rest.
“I’ll actually graduate debt-free,” Downey said. “It’s a lot of work but it’s better than graduating in the hole.”
More than 500 scholarships worth more than $1 million total were awarded to CBC students for the 2014-15 academic year. It’s the most money and scholarships ever awarded by the foundation, officials announced during an annual scholarship reception Friday at the Pasco Red Lion.
Downey and hundreds of other students attended the reception, meeting some of the donors whose contributions helped support their educations. College officials said the community’s generosity is amazing but really represents more than a financial gift.
“What they’re really investing in you is hope,” CBC President Rich Cummins told the crowd.
The foundation began in 1984 and has steadily increased the amount of money and the number of scholarships it has awarded since 2006. This year’s amount exceeds the $830,000 awarded last year and resulted in an additional 90 scholarships.
Scholarship winners are selected based on need, academic performance, involvement in the community and other special considerations, such as whether a student is a single parent or the first in his or her family to go to college.
Money for the scholarships comes from many places, including bequests, trusts and ongoing donations from individuals or companies, such as the Hanford contractors who regularly support the college, foundation CEO Martin Valadez told the Herald. There have been a number of large donations in recent years that have bolstered the foundation’s funds, including a $500,000 donation this year.
He also credited the growth of the foundation’s investments and the work of his predecessor, former CEO Bob Rosselli. Valadez replaced him in January.
“We’re building on his great success,” Valadez said.
Chuck Trueax, 45, of Pasco, started classes in Fall 2013 after being laid off and managed to pay for school thanks to the scholarships he’s received, including $7,500 this year from Washington River Protection Solutions, he said.
Now he’s scheduled to graduate from CBC’s nuclear technology program in the spring and is looking for an internship.
“WRPS has dibs,” Trueax said, smiling.
Not every donor was at Friday’s reception, but Downey got to meet Dean Mitchell, who along with his wife Helen have set up endowments to provide a scholarship each in nursing and business at the college.
Mitchell is always glad to see the students he and his wife support, he said.
“It’s good to know we’ve got a good one,” he said, patting Downey on the back.
Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver