Thanks to a great partnership and a generous individual, a select group of Salt Lake Community College students have the opportunity to cash in on a unique financial aid opportunity. Patti O’Keefe, a former principal at Whittier Elementary School in Salt Lake City has established the Whittier Wolf Book Fund Scholarship as a way to ease the financial burden that higher education places on Whittier alumni.
A “playground-to-parking lot” neighbor (as O’Keefe describes it) of SLCC’s South City Campus, the elementary school and its students have long been beneficiaries of different services and projects provided by SLCC students. From tech literacy support to English language learning programs for parents of Whittier students, attendees of SLCC have given much to the elementary school’s community over the years. O’Keefe’s goal is to give back to the college for such service.
“Since the college contributed so much to our families, and since our students would naturally be inclined to think of SLCC for their college experience, I wanted to assist the college and Whittier students in some small way,” she said.
Available to students who attended Whittier between the 1993-1994 school year and the 2004-2005 school year (the years that O’Keefe was an administrator at the school), the fund covers “books and other instructional supplies up to $500 (per student) with any remaining funds applied towards course fees,” according to the scholarship application.
Students are able to receive the award one semester per academic year. If they have maintained at least a 2.7 GPA, they can re-apply for a second semester. Students may apply at any time. The funding will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis until it has been committed. To qualify, students must be able to prove that they attended Whittier sometime during those years, preferably by way of a report card; be registered for the upcoming semester as a full-time student (at least 12 credit hours) and demonstrate financial need.
Started in 2007, the fund has been well utilized, but O’Keefe is eager to help more students. According to Carey Dufner, the Stewardship and Scholarship Coordinator at SLCC, “To date Patti has awarded $8,000. That doesn’t include the $3,000 we hope to award this year.”
“The money comes from my own pocket…but it seems money well spent if it can assist some of my former students to achieve their dreams,” O’Keefe said.
Whittier, a “Title I” school, has a very culturally diverse student body, and English is the second language of many of its students. O’Keefe said that many of the “thank you” notes she’s received from scholarship recipients share sentiments such as, “I am a first-generation college student and so my family is very proud,” and “I am the first of my family to attend college in the U.S. so it’s a considerable (sic) big deal…”
Despite the praise that comes to O’Keefe for such an unselfish act, she deflected it by matter-of-factly saying, “So, you can see, creating and supporting the Whittier Wolf Fund is just my way of continuing the tradition of encouraging our students that started when they were in grade school.” In other words, O’Keefe feels that it’s just natural to make the world a better place, one Wolf at a time.
To obtain an application, visit slcc.edu/financialaid/scholarships and click on “Whittier Wolf Book Fund Scholarship for Spring 2011.”