This month we took the opportunity to interview three Madison College Foundation donors who work with students at the College. They are Shawna Carter, who is Madison College Vice President for Academic Affairs; Rhoda McKinney, Adult Recruiter; and Bill Bedker, teacher in the school of Human & Protective Services in the Legal Studies/Paralegal and Criminal Justice programs. All are long-time employees who work directly with our students — Shawna for 20 years, Rhoda for over 24 years, and Bill for 25 years.
We asked Shawna, Rhoda, and Bill why each of them gives to the Foundation. Their replies were surprisingly similar and speak to the roots of the dedication our donors feel to the students who benefit:
Shawna said, “I appreciate the values of the college and transforming students’ lives. This is the one thing I can do to give back to students…. I, myself, am also a first-generation college student and in this way I can identify with the students we serve at Madison College.”
Rhoda told us, “I give to the Foundation because I am an Alumni of Madison College, and my journey was not an easy one. I am blessed by my humble beginnings in education to have secured a living wage job that allows me to “pay it forward” to our current Madison College students.”
And Bill replied, “I can generally say that I have an understanding of what it’s like to have limited means growing up, and some of the challenges associated with being the first in one’s family ever to pursue higher education. I made a promise to myself that one day, if I ever had the means to do so, I would try my best to “give back” and help others. Giving to the Foundation is one small way of fulfilling this promise that I made to my much younger self.”
These comments say so much about the value first-generation students place on their education, how hard it is to attain, and the personal value systems that cause these former students to pay it forward by helping other students — and prospective students — who are following them up the ladder. For these donors, education is not simply an obligation or a routine, but instead a living gift to be nourished and shared. And the steps through education are not easy! People need help, and that’s what the Madison College Foundation tries to provide.
We also asked our three donors if they ever had the opportunity to connect with a student who was helped by their support, and what this meant to them. Bill had this to say: “Yes, several times. It’s impossible to put into words. Students are so appreciative, and I am often struck by how what might seem to be a relatively modest gift can make a significant impact in students’ lives. To be able to play a small role in helping students realize their dreams and take hold of their futures is extremely uplifting.”
Rhoda described her experience in this way: “I have received personal letters from students who were directly impacted by my giving, and it meant the world for me to hear their personal story and how it has affected their success at Madison College.”
And Shawna gave us this description: “I’ve gone to the Foundation’s breakfast and have been able to meet students. It’s meaningful to meet the students who get those awards. While I was a Dean and attending the Scholarship Breakfast, there were so many students from that area and their parents were there. I met their parents and they were so proud of their kids as they shared their journeys.”
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Madison College
Adult Recruiter, Madison College
Teacher in the school of Human & Protective Services, Legal Studies/Paralegal and Criminal Justice
So how can others begin to support the Foundation in this work? We asked our interview subjects how they got started, and what forms their support can take.
Rhoda explained, “I structure my giving through annual payroll deductions. It’s also a good way to give back all year long and feel good about it. I like to think of it as the gift that keeps giving, all year through.”
Rhoda also started a scholarship in honor of a dear friend and colleague, an example of how donations can be tailored very specifically to express gratitude or respect for person or group of people.
Similarly, Shawna told us her contributions are a combination of payroll deduction and one-time gifts, and she gives through Emergency Grants and scholarships. Bill uses payroll deductions to give. It’s easy to set these deductions up — Rhoda reminds us “it’s a secure way to give and you do not notice the decrease in your paycheck.”
We closed by asking our generous subjects what makes Madison College different from other academic institutions?
Rhoda, Adult Recruiter for the College, was very specific about what makes Madison College different: “Madison College accepts all students who have submitted their high school transcripts or proof of their, HSED or GED, regardless of age, degrees already earned or previous GPA as long as your ACT or Accuplacer scores align with the scores needed to succeed in our programs transferrable degree credits, making for a more diverse student body. If these test scores do not align with college readiness, we have tuition free, college prep courses that you can take and pass with a “C” or higher to be eligible to begin your degree courses to earn an Associate or other degree options.
Shawna, as Vice President for Academic Affairs, oversees a wide variety of programs and views the College as part of the larger community: “Its amazing that we educate and train students that go back into our community to work and serve or we are giving them an on ramp for transfer. It’s very powerful work. We are community builders. I love that we have a diverse student population. We are so lucky to have a diverse student population and I’m grateful for the gifts they bring to our college.”
Bill, from the viewpoint of a teacher, had this to say about the college and the students: “Whenever I walk through the doors of a building on campus and regardless of who I encounter, I always feel a genuine sense of caring for our students and an authentic, unwavering devotion to their success. It’s almost like being part of one great big extended family. I cherish this feeling, as I recognize how exceptionally rare this is.”
No matter what your own relationship is to Madison College, we hope the thoughts of these Foundation supporters will fill you with pride and inspire you to consider the examples they shared. We all have different reasons for supporting the College, its programming, and its students, and it’s so easy to do. Let’s work together to make 2023 a great year for education and for our community!