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Student mom among those receiving new non-traditional scholarship

Melissa Cunningham, a full-time student and mother, is one of nine non-traditional Seminole State students who received a $485 scholarship.

On campus, Seminole State College of Florida honors student Melissa Cunningham takes a full course load, maintains a 4.0 GPA and is involved in a number of clubs and activities.

Off campus, Cunningham works part time and also is the mother of 3-year-old Travis.

“Juggling it all – motherhood, family, work and school – is a delicate balancing act,” Cunningham says. “But knowing there’s a goal in sight, and knowing the benefit it will have on my future and for my family really pushes me.”

Cunningham, 35, of Sanford, is the first of nine winners in the newly-established Non-Traditional Student Scholarship program at Seminole State. The program, funded through the Foundation for Seminole State College, awarded nearly $5,000 in scholarships – about $485 per student – for non-traditional students like Cunningham for Summer Term classes.

“Being awarded this scholarship shows there’s an entity or body of people willing to invest in my future and invest in people like me,” Cunningham says. The scholarship will help Cunningham pay for textbooks and childcare, she says.

A few hundred dollars can have a big impact for non-traditional students, says Dr. Jan Lloyd, associate vice president of student development.

“Non-traditional students – usually 25 or older – frequently juggle a variety of obligations that may include parenting or maintaining a steady, full-time job or career,” Lloyd says. “We recognize that the needs of our non-traditional students differ from those of traditional students. Offering this scholarship is just one part of a larger collegewide effort toward improving student services for non-traditional students and retaining them.”

The scholarship, open to non-traditional students who meet certain criteria, will be offered each semester. Winners are selected based on a combination of academic status and co-curricular involvement.

Cunningham, a Grindle Honors Institute student, is working toward completing an Honors Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree and a Science Merit Diploma. Cunningham also serves as a student ambassador for the Grindle Honors Institute. She is the official club representative of the Non-Traditional Student Club, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and, she has served as Vice President of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Club.

Cunningham’s goals include pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medical biology, followed by a doctoral degree.

“I’ve always loved science and math, and I’ve always been interested in medicine and health. I’m especially interested in preventative medicine and techniques. Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I remember being asked in fifth grade, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ And, my gut-reaction answer was, ‘A doctor.’ And now, I’m on track, and I’m getting there.”

Other scholarship winners were:  Vilmarie DeJesus, Joyce Deshner, Silvia Galvez, Flor Gomez, Corry Green, Julianne Heredia, Jamie Rhodes and Kerry Stalter.

About 47 percent of Seminole State’s 32,000 students are considered non-traditional. Creating the Non-Traditional Student Scholarship program is just one of many initiatives the College is carrying out to improve non-traditional student transition and retention. 

In June, the College will introduce the Celebrate the Wins Scholarship, designed to retain non-traditional students beyond their first semester. And, in January, the College was awarded a $5,000 grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to provide resources for students who are parents. The grant is being used to identify needs and to create and distribute literature that addresses the needs of student-parents.

Applications for Non-Traditional Student Scholarships for Fall Term are available for pickup in the Office of Student Development and online. The applications are due June 30, and awards will offset costs for fall tuition. For information about resources available to non-traditional students, please visit the non-traditional student website.

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