Eric Gonzalez-Kaczmarek appreciates a helping hand.
The one he received, in the form of a scholarship to attend Fox Valley Technical College, has enabled him to be a full-time student with a part-time job. In his mind, that is an important distinction.
“Because of the scholarship, I didn’t need to worry about my job,” says Gonzalez, a student in FVTC’s welding technology program. “I work fewer hours and have more time for school, for tests and for papers. I can take my classes faster and graduate earlier.”
By graduation faster, he may be able to fill one of the thousands of open jobs in Northeast Wisconsin that keep the region’s economic engine from firing on all cylinders.
On Tuesday morning, FVTC kicked off Fox Valley Tech Promise, an initiative by the FVTC foundation to raise and use $1 million to provide scholarships to eligible students beginning this fall and to remove the cost barriers that keep talented students from pursuing higher education.
The initial $1 million campaign is expected to provide free tuition and books for up to 3,000 students over the next six years.
“I hear from companies every day that they can’t find enough skilled employees,” says Susan May, president of FVTC. “Yet poverty continues to grow in our region. Two-thirds of the families in poverty will not consider higher education because of the cost. That’s hundreds of talented individuals not getting training. We need to change that.”
To qualify for the new program, students entering their senior year of high school this fall are eligible for the scholarships in 2017-18 academic year if they meet the following criteria:
- eligible for free and reduced hot lunch
- complete the FAFSA process
- live in the FVTC district
- maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA in high school and 2.5 while attending FVTC
- carry a minimum of 12 credits per semester
- provide eight hours of volunteer service
This is the first initiative of its kind for any college or university in the region.
“This will help us address the skills gap while also making a difference in the lives of these students,” says Jackie Hintz, president of the FVTC Foundation board of directors.
While the program won’t help him directly, Gonzalez-Kaczmarek wanted to make sure everyone knew the impact a helping hand could get to help struggling families move up the economic ladder.
“I want to help like I was helped,” he says. “This program is going to help others and brighten the future of these students.”