2014 Presidential Scholars: a few of their stories

They are young, focused, and have earned associate degrees with little (to no) debt. Seven students in Corning Community College’s (CCC) Class of 2014 earned their degree in one year by leveraging several incentives that CCC offers, including the Presidential Scholarship.

“To be a CCC Presidential Scholar these young people had already proven they are smart. In addition these seven students demonstrated how to achieve a smart start,” said Dr. Katherine P. Douglas. “They, along with their parents, recognize the quality and value that Corning Community College brings to their educational portfolio. They have clearly made it their business to uncover every relevant opportunity.”

Erin Sweeney, of Waverly, N.Y., earned a liberal arts degree, with a concentration in math and science, and will attend Elmira College in the fall. She earned half of the 62 required credits as a high school student, by completing ACE (accelerated college education) courses offered by her high school teachers, which meant she earned her associates degree in just one year on campus. Because ACE classes are offered at a reduced rate and Sweeney qualified for scholarships, including the Presidential Scholarship, she graduated debt-free. 

The Presidential Scholarship ensures that recipients graduate from Corning Community College (CCC) with no tuition debt, receive additional academic support while a student, and are guaranteed placement within a SUNY school to complete a bachelor’s degree. It is offered to students at participating high schools who graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes and maintain good academic standing at CCC. It was this scholarship that convinced Sweeney to choose CCC. The professors, though, are why she stayed. 

“The professors help students a lot,” said Sweeney, who volunteers with Kiwanis and helps coach her high school girl’s golf team when she’s not studying. “They want to see their students succeed and worked really hard to make sure we understood the material and were ready to move on.”

Taylor Stalbird, of Corning, N.Y., has similar memories of professors at Corning Community College, explaining that the learning environment was a big motivator for her. 

“The professors help in more ways than most,” said Stalbird. “They are in their offices during office hours; they helped me with my transfer applications; they wrote letters of recommendations for me. In general, it really felt like they wanted to know me, not just teach me. Their sincere interest in how well I did really made me want to do as well as I could.” 

In addition to taking advantage of the Presidential Scholarship program at Corning, Stalbird leveraged another CCC opportunity: she completed her senior year of high school at Corning Community College, taking college courses that were applied to both her senior year in high school and her first year in college. 

“I had taken all of the classes at my high school that made sense for me to take,” said Stalbird. “I could have hung around and wasted that year, but I decided I would rather make progress toward my professional goal. It was the best decision I’ve made so far.” 

Stalbird, who will attend the University of Buffalo in the fall, plans to be an occupational therapist and hopes to work specifically with children who have disabilities. Inspired by her mother, who is a speech therapist and experiences working one-on-one with a youngster who has Downs Syndrome, Stalbird finds great satisfaction in helping people challenge themselves.

Thomas Milliken, Jr., of Elmira, N.Y., likes to challenge himself, whether it is shooting hoops or balancing his checkbook. An aspiring accountant, Milliken, began taking ACE credits in his junior year, a decision that made the transition to college a bit smoother and allowed him to shave a year from the normal time to graduation. Like Sweeney, Milliken graduated from CCC after attending for just one year. 

“Saving money made sense to me,” said Milliken, who will attend St. Bonaventure University in the fall and is enrolled in the 5-year accounting program that will result in a master’s degree. “But, it’s also important to me that I challenge myself and realize my potential. The education I got at Corning was real. The professors expected us to work and to meet their expectations. Because of this, I’m very prepared for my next step. 52 of my 68 CCC credits transferred directly into the accounting curriculum at St. Bonaventure. I will graduate with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees on track.” 

Abby Winch, from Spencer, N.Y., was also looking for an educational challenge. She began taking ACE credits as a sophomore in high school. Graduating from Spencer-Van Etten with nearly 40 college credits, she picked CCC for her next step because she wanted to make the smartest decision possible.

“Going to a prestigious school may make sense for some people, but for me, I was looking for the best education at the best value,” said Winch. “I definitely believe I got the same education as my friends who chose other more expensive and probably well-known schools. I am on the exact same level as my friends, but I have much less debt than they do.”

Because she earned the Presidential Scholarship, Winch chose to live on campus. When she was selected to be a resident assistant her second semester in Perry Hall, her final semester of room and board was also covered. While she is not expecting these kinds of financial incentives as a student at Binghamton University in the fall, Winch is excited to begin the next stage of her educational journey. At Binghamton, she will major in math with a minor in computer programming, a passion she developed while at CCC.

Amelia Kimble, of Corning, N.Y., confirmed her professional passion was on track as a student at CCC by completing more than 100 hours of field work in elementary schools. Like Stalbird, she combined her final year of high school with her first year of college at CCC, a strategy her younger brother is also following. Both Kimbles considered the International Baccalaureate program before making the decision to spend their senior years at CCC. Ultimately, they chose CCC because CCC courses are readily accepted at most four-year colleges, and they knew that transferring to a four-year college was the final objective. 

That decision cost money though, which required Kimble to work full-time at various jobs in the community and on campus. Even so, she maintained a near perfect 3.96 grade point average. This mark of distinction earned her a spot in the top 10% of her high school graduating class, which entitled her to a Presidential Scholarship for her final year at CCC. 

“The scholarship meant that I could buy a car,” said Kimble, who relied on her parents for transportation the first year. “The scholarship also let me start saving money for when I transfer.”

Kimble will attend Buffalo State in the fall, where she will complete work for a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education. 

Presidential Scholars Richelle Parulski, of Bath, N.Y., and Mattison Seymour, of Waverly, N.Y., also graduated this month from Corning Community College, with just one year on campus. 

“These students are marvelous examples of the talented and ambitious people who choose to start their educational journeys at Corning,” said Jan van den Blink, president of the Corning Community College Development Foundation. “It is a privilege to help them pursue their life’s goals with initiatives like the Presidential Scholarship.”