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February 19, 2007

Foundation gives $1 million vote of confidence to UCSC's nontraditional students

By Shawna Hershfield

When Yvette Sanchez graduated from UCSC in June with bachelor’s degrees in both environmental studies and economics, it was a celebration almost 20 years in the making.

Photos of Yvette Sanchez, Brittany and Richard

Yvette Sanchez, center, served as a mentor to two students, Brittany Reyes-Topper and Richard Estacio, recently at the Renaissance Scholars Program Early Academic Planning Camp.

As a former foster youth, she struggled to keep her grades up while working to pay for school.

When she won a $5,000 scholarship from the Bernard Osher Foundation, it was a “huge surprise,” Sanchez said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. The money made it possible for me to work less and study more.”

Since 2005, the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program at UCSC has been supporting students like Sanchez, between the ages of 25 and 50 whose collegiate studies were interrupted by circumstances beyond their control and who wish to complete a four-year baccalaureate degree.

This year, the Bernard Osher Foundation, which underwrites the program, endowed their support with a $1 million donation. The Osher Foundation’s gift will provide outstanding, nontraditional students the boost they need in perpetuity, said Corinne Miller, UCSC’s director of Services for Transfer and Re-entry Students (STARS).

“We knew that the Osher Foundation was considering endowing their re-entry student support at a few select universities that could demonstrate student success as a result of the funding,” Miller said. “When the foundation awarded the $1 million endowment to UCSC, we were thrilled. So many students will be helped. The Osher Foundation also donated an additional $50,000 bridge grant so that we could continue supporting outstanding re-entry students while the endowment is put into place.”

During the program’s inaugural year, the foundation gave $50,000 to provide educational support for 10 UCSC students, at $5,000 each. In August, the foundation awarded the campus $50,000 for a second year of funding. That funding provided scholarships for 10 more deserving students. Recipients of the 2006-07 Osher scholarships include Laura Aguilar, Elizabeth Castellanos, Rachel Cordero, Errol Levine, Manuel Lopez, Murdoch McDonald, Angela Pena, Jessica Smith, Rebecca Thielbar, and Sau Vong.

“We have been impressed with the fine work of the university in recognizing the special needs of re-entering students and in facilitating lifelong learning for seasoned adults in the Greater Silicon Valley region,” said Bernard Osher, the foundation’s benefactor and founder.

“Re-entry students are among the most motivated students. They want to contribute to the world in ways that utilize their talents and enable them to earn a living for their families, and they know from life experience the importance of education in obtaining these goals,” said Miller.

Re-entry students often have special needs, including matriculation and career counseling, familiarization with new information technology used in higher education, and balancing the requirements of their families and employment. Despite these challenges, they often impress faculty and counselors with their commitment to their studies and often perform at a higher level than other students.

"The Osher Foundation identified UCSC as an institution that acknowledges such special needs and is committed to assisting re-entering students and approached us,” Miller said.

In addition to supporting returning students who are interested in getting their bachelor’s degrees, the Osher Foundation also supports older learners who aren’t interested in a degree program, but seek classes that offer university-level content.

The foundation provided three years of funding at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UCSC Extension starting in 2004 at $100,000 per year, according to former vice provost and dean of University Extension and Summer Session Cathy Sandeen.

“The foundation is pleased to support both the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UCSC,” Osher added.

Sanchez has taken the GREs and hopes to enter a doctoral program in environmental studies. “The scholarship and the tools I now have help me feel more confident about going on to graduate school,” Sanchez said.

Through programs like the Osher Reentry Scholarship and Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, the Bernard Osher Foundation has made an important and life-affirming commitment to mature adults who want to realize their potential through education,” Miller said.


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