Case Study: P!N Dreamkeepers Scholarship
by Donna Lee
There is no trouble-free path to furthering education goals when lives are interrupted by the unreserved devastation of severe weather. But advisors and PLAN!T NOW have observed movements to uplift those most affected through opportunities for community college students nationwide. The Wall Street Journal observed in an April 21, 2010 article that community colleges are ready to meet that challenge, taking deliberate steps at the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges in Seattle. According to the Journal, “Officials representing hundreds of two-year colleges across the U.S. signed a ‘call to action,’ pledging to boost student-completion rates 50% over the next decade. Currently only 40% of community-college students complete their programs.”
PLAN!T NOW offers a program that will provide grants for persons pursuing two-year degrees because we believe in the power of community colleges to affect, with fuller reverberation, coastal communities. We had begun to investigate Louisiana’s drive to ensure a connection between the state’s graduating student population and job opportunities by directing resources and messaging campaigns for the promotion of community college programs. When we were well into designing our plan with Scholarship America for our existing and growing scholarship fund’s four-year program, Scholarship America’s Donald Lassere introduced us to the Dreamkeepers concept. The program meshes well with our intent to serve community college students affected by hurricanes and other severe storms, and those hoping to gain degrees, by allowing them to have an effect on populations vulnerable to storms.
When P!N offered its inaugural round of Hurricane Relief scholarships in 2009, one applicant stood out. She’d suffered hardships, including near-terminal illness, and was dutifully raising a family while championing her own small, non-profit endeavors for her storm-stricken community. Because she was attending a community college, her plan for her future and the future of her broken community as she could affect it seemed focused and achievable. This candidate’s need also reconnected us at P!N with the hope that community colleges can provide for cities and towns, educating about half of the country’s total population of college students, and was the impetus for a plan explicitly providing funding for two-year degree candidates.
At the advice of individuals, including P!N Scholarship Task Force advisor Collette Hadley of the Scholarship Center of Santa Barbara, we reached out to Scholarship America’s Amy Nelson, who carefully plotted with PLAN!T NOW staff to construct the program. It will include the Dreamkeepers grants; grants to students studying hazards sciences including one for a student of meteorology (for undergraduate- or graduate-level funds) that is a part of our developing Young Meteorologist Program; a grant to a student at the University of the West Indies; and grants to students who have been affected by hurricanes and had needs, based on devastation or effects to their own or their families’ ability to provide for them, particularly with support for college.
Plan parts built by the initial P!N 2009 task force – principally, the scholarship matrix constructed by the American Meteorological Society’s Wendy Marie Thomas, an invaluable advisor for PLAN!T NOW and leader for that committee – were observed and critiqued by Scholarship America for inclusion in the evaluations toolbox for the 2010-11 round.
We hope to grow this scholarship fund for use at other community colleges in storm-affected regions, with the help and direction of Scholarship America. We could use your help, too. To give to this fund, please donate – any dollar amount, though $10 or more is encouraged. Click on the “Support Us” page of this website.