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WKCTC student selected as 2018 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar

PADUCAH, KY (04/18/2018) Paducah resident Emily Sands, a sophomore at West Kentucky Community and Technical College has been selected as a 2018 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar. She will receive a $1,500 scholarship for fall 2018.

Selection as a Coca-Cola Gold Scholar was based on scores Sands earned in the All-USA Academic Team competition, for which more than 2,000 applications were received this year. This program is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and is administered by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

"I am very honored and thankful to have been chosen for this award," Sands said. "It is very generous and kind of them to recognize my work."

A 35-year-old Minnesota native and a member of the WKCTC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, Sands is the college's first Coca-Cola Gold Scholar recipient.

A Spanish major whose life goals are to be a good mother, a positive force in the community and a catalyst for change, Sands said she strives to use her Spanish education for "breaking down language barriers and building up communities" - something that is close to her heart.

"My little sister is a beautiful and talented 14-year-old whose father is from Mexico. She has been bullied and has experienced blatant racism from the other kids at school," Sands said. "...I think the best we can offer the next generation is a better education. I hope to be a part of helping them to understand that language and cultural diversity are beautiful and should be celebrated - not shamed and humiliated. Only through building each other up can we begin to heal."

Sands said her biggest priority is setting a positive example for her 13-year-old son Phoenix who has special needs.

"I feel that the most important thing I can model for my son is the importance of recognizing that we are a part of a whole, and that we can make a great difference through community building," Sands said. "To receive this scholarship…can serve to greatly alleviate stress at a time when I need to focus on my son and my studies."

Sands expects to graduate from WKCTC with an associate in arts degree May 5. She will continue her focus on Spanish education when she transfers to Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) this fall to work toward a bachelor's degree in languages, cultures, and international studies with a specialization in Spanish with a minor in American Sign Language.

"I will feel well prepared to jump into the halls with other Spanish majors. I feel like what I have learned from my instructors (at WKCTC) has greatly helped me to prepare for what I will face next," Sands said.

In addition to the Coca-Cola scholarship, Sands has received SIU's University Excellence Transfer Scholarship, which will offer her $9,500 each semester. "It is the largest scholarship I've ever received, and I am thrilled. I am very grateful to be selected, this will help a great deal in the coming two years."

In the future, Sands hopes to become an interpreter for legal defense while she continues her education toward a master's degree. "With a graduate degree, I would be very happy to find a job teaching at a community college. My long-term goal is to work to develop a language sharing program where individuals can empower each other by sharing their native languages," she said.

Sands earned a GED after dropping out of high school at 16 and working many kinds jobs to support herself. Although she never saw herself going to college, Sands said all that changed when she walked through the doors of WKCTC.

"Without WKCTC being here and affordable, logistically, I may not have been able to go to school. As complicated as life is, it was a hard enough leap to take, but WKCTC was accessible and welcoming," Sands said. "WKCTC has changed my life by connecting me with some wonderful individuals who have been there for me."