SJR State College hosts First Generation in College scholarship luncheon
St. Johns River State College recently hosted a First Generation in College scholarship luncheon to bring together the College’s donors and recipients of the First Generation in College Matching Grant program. This program provides financial assistance to degree-seeking, resident, undergraduate students who demonstrate substantial financial need, are enrolled in eligible participating institutions, and whose parents have not earned a baccalaureate or higher degree.
The luncheon served as a heartfelt thank-you to the College’s donors for helping students fulfill their higher-education dreams. Vice President for Development and External Affairs Caroline Tingle said, “Because of the financial support given to the College, we have been able to provide dedicated funding to our First Generation in College students here at SJR State.”
Donors present at the luncheon were Renee Inge from St. Augustine and representatives from the Rotary Clubs of Palatka, Palatka Sunrise, Orange Park, Orange Park Sunrise, Orange Park Sunset, and Fleming Island. To them, Tingle said, “For every dollar you, our donors, have given to this program, you have helped deserving first-generation college students gain academic opportunities that no one in their family has ever received.”
Tingle continued, “First generation students, those who are the first in their families to attend college, face a variety of challenges that others don't. In many cases, there exists a lack of support from parents who don't realize the value of a college education. At the same time, much more is riding on the students’ success, because it has the power to positively influence others in their families, creating an extremely positive ripple effect.”
SJR State business management student Robert Williams, of Palatka, who was attending the luncheon with his friend Unika Vickers, is a prime example of one creating this ripple effect. “Because my parents didn’t graduate from high school,” he said,” they pushed me to go further with my education, and now that I am in college, my mom has received her GED and is back in school this semester.”
In 2015, the SJR State Foundation, in partnership with the SJR State Financial Aid Office, was able to award approximately $40,000 in grants to 21 students. Funding for the First Generation in College Matching Grant program is provided in part by the State Legislature. Approximately $1.3 million was allocated by the Legislature in 2015 to the 28 colleges within the Florida College System. SJR State’s share was $18,000. However, access to these funds was contingent upon matching contributions from private sources on a one-to-one dollar basis.
SJR State scholarship recipients Vickers, Tangie Archer and Michael Meeks shared their personal and educational challenges with luncheon guests, expressing deep gratitude to the donors for their contributions that afford them the opportunity to continue their education and fulfill their dreams.
“SJR State is home,” Vickers said prior to the luncheon. “I started here as a dual-enrollment student when I was a sophomore at Palatka High School. I just turned 20 years old, and I feel well-grounded and prepared for my next steps in life because of the solid information I’ve gained at SJR State and the push from the most welcoming and caring professors and staff. However, my reality would have been a whole lot different without the scholarships I received,” she said. “I am so grateful for the financial and moral support I have been given here at SJR State.”
To the donors, who listened attentively to the heart-tugging stories Archer, Meeks and Vickers shared, Tingle said, “The power of your donations means the stories that you just heard will forever continue to be told. Thank you again for investing in these dreams. I know that each one of you understand that the importance of education, as a building block for our community, is essential. Education provides opportunity. And you have secured that opportunity for these students.”
According to a five-year survey, between 2009 and 2014, the 2014 U.S. Census listed only 26 percent of Floridians, age 25 and older, with bachelor’s degree or higher. Tingle added, “Further discovery within our own communities revealed the following percentages: St Johns County reported 41 percent; Clay County, 24 percent; and Putnam, 11 percent. Our communities have need,” she said.
SJR State Dean of Enrollment Management Daniel Barkowitz estimates that more than 1,000 of the neediest students in St. Johns, Clay and Putnam counties qualify for the First Generation in College Matching Grant program. “Therefore, we are always open to meeting and talking with potential donors about participating in this matching-grant program, the only one of its kind at SJR State,” Tingle stated.
Donors of the First Generation in College Matching Grant program attend a luncheon in their honor at the St. Johns River State College Palatka campus. This matching-grant program provides financial assistance to degree-seeking, resident, undergraduate students who demonstrate substantial financial need, are enrolled in eligible participating institutions, and whose parents have not earned a baccalaureate or higher degree. In 2015, the SJR State Foundation, in partnership with the SJR State Financial Aid Office, was able to award approximately $40,000 in grants to 21 SJR State students.
First Generation in College Scholarship recipients attending the luncheon were, from left to right: SJR State President Joe Pickens, J.D., Michael Meeks, Unika Vickers, Tangie Archer and Brett Holland.
First Generation in College Scholarship donors attending the luncheon were, Front row, from left: Yvonne Parrish (Rotary Club of Palatka Sunrise), Renee Inge, SJR State Senior Vice President/General Counsel Melissa Miller (Rotary Club of Palatka) and Dr. Shann Purinton (Rotary Club of Palatka).
Back row, from left: SJR State Vice President for Development and External Affairs Caroline Tingle (Rotary Club of Palatka Sunrise), Brent Coates (Rotary Club of Palatka Sunrise), SJR State Senior Academic Advisor Dr. Patrick Arnwine (Rotary Club of Orange Park Sunset), Shirley Dyson (Rotary Club of Orange Park), SJR State Director of Dual Enrollment and College Access Meghan Deputy (Rotary Club of Palatka) and SJR State Vice President for Student Affairs/Assistant General Counsel Dr. Gilbert Evans (Rotary Club of Palatka Sunrise).