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Three PCC Continuing Education Students Receive SECU Foundation Scholarships

SECU Greenville Medical Park Advisory Board Member Anthony Bartholomew, left, and PCC Continuing Education Dean Kristin Braswell, right, present SECU Foundation Continuing Education Scholarships to students Shanessa Ruffin, Adriana Angel Sanchez and Aisha Bradley, left to right.

GREENVILLE—State Employees' Credit Union (SECU) members—through their member-funded SECU Foundation—recently awarded $750-SECU Continuing Education Scholarships to three Pitt Community College students.

Receiving scholarships Sept. 18 were Greenville's Aisha Bradley, Grifton's Adriana Angel-Sanchez and Winterville's Shanessa Ruffin. All three students are enrolled in the college's Nursing Assistant I course.

In addition to sharing a strong desire to succeed in the health care field, all three students are working toward credentials as single mothers. Sidette Boyce, director of PCC Health Care Programs for Continuing Education, says single mothers represent a growing segment of the nontraditional student body.

Boyce said juggling family responsibilities, work and school presents unique challenges for this segment of the student population. She said current educational trends are also creating a greater need for financial support among college students returning to higher education for a specific credential or certification.

"Economic conditions are supporting a globalization of the workforce, so a trend among older individuals is to reengage with higher education," Boyce said. "Single mothers and other adults who are retraining to launch renewed careers are increasingly in need for scholarships and grants in order to return to college."

The North Carolina State Employees' Credit Union, Boyce said, has been instrumental in offering scholarship opportunities for working adults and single parents.

"The SECU scholarship program's financial generosity has allowed our students to move one step closer to their goals of achieving a certification, which could lead to gainful employment," she said.

Started in 2013, SECU's scholarship program focuses on assisting North Carolina's unemployed and underemployed citizens, military veterans, and members of the N.C. National Guard who are seeking short-term job training for new careers or retraining to advance their current job skills. Scholarship funding is applied to tuition and other expenses associated with eligible programs of study through the N.C. Community College System's Back-to-Work Program and continuing education courses.

Without scholarship funding through organizations like the SECU Foundation, Boyce says many students miss out on educational opportunities that can have a profound impact on their lives. Scholarships, she said, are "crucial for bridging the gap" between the increasing cost of tuition and what people can afford to pay.

Boyce says the SECU scholarships Bradley, Angel-Sanchez and Ruffin received this month will help them pay for a variety of educational expenses, including tuition, books, fees, course supplies, certification exam fees and uniforms.

"Unlike most scholarships that specify tuition and books only, the SECU funding is allowed to be used at the student's discretion, once all PCC obligations have been fulfilled," Boyce said. "Any additional funding left over from the scholarship is refunded to the student. In prior semesters, we have seen past recipients of the scholarship utilize the funding for additional courses or certifications."

With a $435,000-commitment to Continuing Education scholarships and SECU Foundation's annual $580,000 "People Helping People" Community College Scholarships, the organization now provides more than $1 million each year to the N.C. Community College System.