The state’s economic vitality is tied to the skills of its workforce. Trends show that in 10 years, nearly two-thirds of North Carolina’s jobs will require a post-secondary degree or credential. With a Golden LEAF Scholarship, more rural students will have the financial resources to attend community college and gain knowledge and skills needed to meet the needs of our state’s employers.
The Golden LEAF community college scholarship program has supported more than 16,000 scholarships to rural N.C. community college students since 2000. Last year, Golden LEAF helped 1,225 students gain valuable knowledge and skills that translate to employability. Community colleges promote short-term training, two-year degrees, certifications, diplomas, and continuing education all with a mission of readying the workforce for jobs in demand now and the jobs that will be in demand in the future.
Savannah Smith of Asheboro is attending Randolph Community College studying to become a nurse. She received the Golden LEAF Scholarship in January 2020 and used the funds to take the Nurse Aide 1 courses needed to begin her program.
“The scholarship really helped me because it paid for the nursing assistant course for me,” said Smith. “Without that course, I wouldn’t have gotten into the nursing program. It helped me get one step closer to my degree.”
Smith will graduate next year with an associate degree in Nursing, a field with one of the larger expected shortages within five years. In rural areas, the nursing shortage is expected to be even starker, researchers say. Golden LEAF scholarships are awarded to students who are more likely to work in rural communities upon completing their programs.
“I want to work at a hospital,” said Smith. “I’m leaning towards the labor and delivery floor. I have always liked helping people, so I feel like that has played a role in wanting to go into healthcare.”
A Golden LEAF Scholarship can provide up to $2,250 per school year to eligible community college students. Awards can be applied toward tuition, fees, books, school supplies, transportation, childcare expenses related to attending classes, and credential testing upon course completion.
When Addie Holloman of Ahoskie received the Golden LEAF Scholarship in 2018 and 2019, the stress of tuition costs and textbooks prices was alleviated.
“With the Golden LEAF Scholarship, it allowed me to focus more on the courses and not how the courses were going to be paid for,” said Holloman.
Holloman works as a library assistant while continuing her education. The skills she is learning in college are preparing her for the jobs of tomorrow.
“I received my associate degree in Business Administration and Marketing in 2018,” said Holloman. “In 2019, I started coursework in the field of Medical Office Administration.”
Employment in the medical office administration field is expected to grow much faster than the average job growth for all occupations, according to labor statistics.
Frances Eller also is studying for a degree in Medical Office Administration while attending Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. She plans to graduate in May 2021 but might not have been able to continue her program without a scholarship.
“I was blessed to go to college and learn skills for a new career, but I was still in need of money for gas and repairs to my van,” said Eller. “The Golden LEAF Scholarship was there to help with these expenses. When I graduate in 2021, I look forward to finding a career that I will enjoy until retirement.”
Gina Clarke of Anson County returned to college after a fifteen-year break with the help of a Golden LEAF scholarship. Attending South Piedmont Community College, Clarke used the scholarship to help pay for tuition and books.
“I was nervous about going back and had no idea how I was going to pay for it all,” said Clarke. “I called South Piedmont Community College to learn about my options.”
In that phone call, Clarke learned that she only needed to take seven more classes to earn her degree. With the help of the Financial Aid office, she applied for the Golden LEAF Scholarship and received enough funding to cover her school costs.
“I haven’t had to worry about money at all,” said Clarke. “Scholarships have helped me pay for everything. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would have done it.”
Clarke will complete her associate in arts degree next semester. She plans to transfer to Wingate University and major in history education so that she can teach middle school students, another field that is seeing great turnover and needs more workers.