By Crystal Burns
Laci Keel, a 2013 graduate of South Gibson County High School, fought back tears as she described her experience at Dyersburg State Community College Gibson County Center.
“I love these people,” she said.
Keel was one of two Gibson County students to address scholarship donors and recipients at a luncheon held Friday at the DSCC center in Trenton.
The luncheon served as an opportunity for students to thank the men and women responsible for securing scholarship money for the local facility and a chance for DSCC President Dr. Karen Bowyer and the advisory committee to update community leaders on their fundraising progress.
Bryce West, vice president and manager of BancorpSouth in Trenton, said the local annual fund campaign committee has already surpassed last year’s pledges and contributions by about $6,000. The total raised so far is $34,006.75.
“We’re doing a fantastic job in Gibson County, but that doesn’t mean we’re done,” he said.
The grand total for all DSCC campuses is over $377,000.
West said the fundraising committee is doing everything it can to continue to provide financial assistance to students and prospective students because of the impacts postsecondary education has on individuals, families and communities.
“Postsecondary education means more money in your life,” he said. “It means better housing for you and your family, better transportation for you and your family, better things in your house and even better vacations for you and your family.”
West admitted that he didn’t always see the connection between education and earning power. He enrolled in community college after graduating from high school, but didn’t commit himself fully. West said he was put on academic probation after the first semester and was dismissed after the second.
West joined the Marines, where he said he grew up quickly, and when he returned to college later, he attended every class.
Keel had a similar start. The Gibson resident said she started to college after high school even though she wasn’t ready. She ended up taking off three years before friends convinced her to give DSCC a look. When she left the Gibson County Center the first time, she said, “I felt so confident in myself.”
Last year, she was voted homecoming queen.
“Dyersburg State has given me the opportunity to become a better me,” Keel, who will graduate with an associate’s degree in general studies, said.
Terry Newsome of Dyer, a Gibson County High School graduate, is majoring in pre-health professions at DSCC. As a child, he was diagnosed with an extreme type of Autism that he called crippling. Some told him he wouldn’t amount to much.
“It’s been an uphill fight ever since I was a kid,” Newsome said.
His dream is to become a doctor and open his own cardiology clinic, and he said DSCC has given him the pride he needs to work towards his goals.
“It’s moments like this that I realize people really are good in this world,” he said.
Bowyer shared statistics showing that obtaining an associate’s degree can mean an average of $38,945 in first-time earnings in Tennessee. Nationwide, adults with associate’s degrees earn $10,700 more per year than their counterparts with high school diplomas only.