Student spotlight: Showing the courage to step off the edge

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(Published in the Winter 2020 Edition of IMPACT magazine, a publication of the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation.)

As a 10th-grade English teacher at Cave Spring High School, Colleen Morrison enjoys every chance to encourage and inspire her students. However, she’s noticed that some students shy away from certain career paths because they think those jobs are out of reach. Girls, especially, tend to discount careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Morrison first decided to pursue a database programming degree at Virginia Western Community College to set a good example for her students. She’s since rekindled her own love for computer-based fields, and opened up potential career paths for herself. Balancing a teacher’s workload with her studies has been challenging, but Morrison has excelled. Her hard work has been recognized with two scholarships. The Business, Technology & Trades Annual Scholarship, provided through Virginia Western, honors the legacy of late dean Deborah A. Yancey; it gives qualifying recipients $500 per semester. The Neall Family Charitable Foundation Scholarship, provided through The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, gives qualified students $2,160.  

VW: How have the scholarships you’ve received helped you while you’re working toward this degree?

Morrison: My husband and I had some money set aside that we didn’t use for our wedding and I figured that it might as well go to good use for education. I ended up not having to pay any of it. We still have that money, which is fairly nice for things like houses and children eventually. And not only is it nice to have that extra padding, but I think it’s really neat to say that I’m going to be in this program, probably, when I become a mom.

VW: How did you become interested in the database programming degree?

Morrison: I always really, really liked working with computers when I was younger. It was just never met by much enthusiasm by anyone other than my parents because I was a girl in the South. I did almost every required science fair project we had to do with computers, and I was always kind of met with, “That’s great for a girl,” and “You’re doing an awesome job, for a girl.”

VW: Any plans for your degree when you graduate?

Morrison: I kind of like the idea of starting some sort of tech ed program or something that can encourage other girls to go do this. I think having influence on the ground floor would be really promising for women in STEM in the future.

VW: Do you have any advice for other adult learners who might want to obtain a new degree while managing a full-time job?

Morrison: If it’s something you’re interested in, there’s no harm at all in trying it out. If it’s a monetary thing, you can always audit classes and see if it’s something you might be interested in before committing to it. This ended up being one of the coolest things that I’ve gotten to do in my 27 years of life, so I think that everybody should have the confidence to try to step off the edge. 

For more information on scholarships offered by the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, go to Applications for the fall 2020 scholarship cycle will be available in March 2020.

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