PADUCAH, KY (04/21/2018) "If you could stand from where I am - I see youth, potential, greatness," said West Kentucky Community and Technical College President Anton Reece from the podium as he welcomed more than 80 students, donors and supporters at the 2018 Community Scholarship Program (CSP) reception held in the college's Emerging Technology Center April 19. The program provides financial assistance for tuition at WKCTC for students who meet specified qualifications and graduate from a high school in McCracken County.
Among the youth at the reception were CSP students and Paducah residents, Anntionette McCallum and Kyle Garner, who shared their stories of how the program has changed their lives and their plans of giving back to the community in the future.
"Going to college was something I never expected to do because of my family's financial situation," said McCallum, a 2017 Paducah Tilghman High School graduate.
"My grandmother is one of the important figures in my life who inspired me to go to college. ...I remember growing up and seeing her struggle to pay her bills, and I remember that she used to always tell me she wanted me to go to college because she didn't want me to struggle the way she did."
A first-generation college student, McCallum is fulfilling her grandmother's wishes. She was recently admitted to WKCTC's nursing program. She is working to earn an associate in nursing degree, with plans to complete a bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing, become a nurse practitioner and practice in Paducah.
"I've also wanted to be a nurse ever since I was little because I'm really passionate about helping people...and I'm looking forward to completing my future goals. I would like to thank everyone for being here, and I'd especially like to thank donors, because without you all, people like me would struggle to go to college," said McCallum.
Kyle Garner said thanks to the CSP scholarship, the opportunity for two years of college tuition is amazing and a blessing. "This has allowed me to confirm my plans without acquiring student debt..."
A 2017 graduate of McCracken County High School, Garner has had his plans mapped out since his freshman year - complete an associate in science degree at WKCTC, transfer to the University of Kentucky (U.K.) to study biology and chemistry, continue his studies to fulfill his dream to become an optometrist, and return to Paducah to open his own practice.
He learned about giving back to the community from his grandfather and father. His grandfather, who graduated in 1964 from then Paducah Junior College and finished a degree at U.K., became a pharmacist in Paducah, eventually opening his own business. His father graduated in 1989 from Paducah Community College, earned an accounting degree from Murray State University and currently works at Paducah Power System.
"I've been extremely blessed to follow in my father's and my grandfather's footsteps. Being a third generation WKCTC student, I've heard the stories of how it was the best decision they could have made. They stayed at home, got their education, and they came back to impact their community. I would love to be able to do the same," said Garner.
CSP Director Lisa Stephenson said thanks to continued support for the program, this year's class of CSP students marks the fourth cohort on campus since the program began in fall 2014, serving over 500 students.
From the data collected on the program, Stephenson said CSP students are staying at WKCTC, earning higher GPAs, completing more college credit hours, and completing a credential at higher rates than others in their respective freshman cohort. Many CSP students transferring to universities are receiving transfer scholarships from those universities to help pay for their education and have continued success.
During the reception, donors and K-12 partners received special recognition for their dedication to the CSP.
"We look forward to this event; it's an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments and to say "thank you" to those who support the program," said Stephenson.
CSP is supported financially through a partnership of the City of Paducah, the McCracken County Fiscal Court, the Paducah Junior College Foundation, the Rotary Club of Paducah, and private donors. Businesses recognized for their support at the reception include Bacon Farmer Workman, Baptist Health Paducah, Community Services Financial Bank, Computer Services Inc., Edwards Jones Investments, Paducah Bank, Paducah Power System and Paducah & Louisville Railway.