INA, Ill. (Oct. 25, 2018) – Hundreds of Rend Lake College students and donors met for the first time last week for an evening of celebration during the 29th Annual RLC Foundation Scholarship Dinner, held Thursday, Oct. 18 at the Benton Civic Center.
During the event, guest speakers Joe Gliosci, Megan Rounds, Suzanna LeFebvre, and Phillip Smith shared their experiences giving or receiving scholarships. RLC Foundation CEO Kay Zibby-Damron and Board Chairperson Robert Bornheimer were also on hand to share in the evening’s festivities.
Zibby-Damron welcomed the audience to the event and, after introductions, thanked every person in attendance for their specific role – either as donors and alums or as students pursuing a college degree.
“To our scholarship donors, thank you for believing in the importance of education, for believing in Rend Lake College, and for believing in our students. Know that we are committed to doing everything we can to be good stewards of your gift,” said Zibby-Damron to the donors in the room. To the group of alumni donors, she added, “thank you for staying connected to Rend Lake College and for giving back to the place where you began your journey. Rend Lake College is very proud of you.”
To the students, she continued, “As you go home tonight and you go back to class, I want to ask two things of you. Number one, do your best. The people who are here tonight are interested in you and they know the value of education and they want to help you. It’s now your responsibility to be accountable for this gift. Simply do your best, show up, and don’t give up. Two, I want you to look for ways to pay it forward. Get involved in your community, help others, and as you start your career, I hope that you too will consider how you can give back to Rend Lake College. You are our future scholarship donors.”
Bornheimer echoed with words of appreciation to the students.
“As donors, we’ll tell you this is one of our favorite evenings of the year, because this is where our contributions come to life. We get to see the person who benefits from it, and getting to know you, what your plans are, that inspires us to keep giving. Thank you all for attending and giving us some time to get to know you a little bit,” he said.
First on stage for the guest speakers was Joe Gliosci, Illinois Region President of Legence Bank. As a surprise announcement, Gliosci said Legence Bank will sponsor two new scholarships for $1,000 each to be awarded during the 2019-20 academic year.
“We are excited and extremely thankful to be able to offer two scholarships to students who reflect how we approach our business every day,” said Gliosci. “We seek bright, curious, engaging students who make a difference in our communities. Our core values guide our Legence Bank team to help our customers and communities grow stronger, and these are the same values we look for in the scholarship recipients. They have professionalism, a strong work ethic, are a team player and community-minded, honesty with integrity, innovative, loyal, and my favorite, positive and enthusiastic attitude. We approach work with the spirit of generosity and look for students who approach education with the same manner. I have a feeling next year, we won’t have any problem finding two students to award this scholarship to.”
In response to the announcement, Zibby-Damron added, “Thank you. This is very exciting. This new scholarship creates two new opportunities for RLC students for next year. Thank you very much Joe and Legence Bank for your support.”
Next at the podium was RLC AmeriCorps Director Megan Rounds who shared her experiences as both a scholarship donor and recipient.
“Coming from a family of coal miners and farmers, I understand that education is not always something our parents or grandparents may have pursued. I was raised with the words, ‘when you go to college’ not ‘if you go.’ While most of my family may not have had a college education themselves, they did want that opportunity for me,” said Rounds.
She continued, “When it was time to leave high school, every penny made a difference for our family. I was blessed to receive an art scholarship for photography at Rend Lake College as well as financial support to attend SIU from my grandparents. When I received that scholarship, it was the community who were there to help support me, as well as my family.”
Rounds, alongside her husband Zach, made the decision to give back nearly two years ago. This year, the couple decided the increase their donation to the RLC Foundation.
“You’re here because you value education, the people within our communities, and we have joined together to provide them with support for their education. Zach and I decided to give a scholarship because we wanted to build upon the support already given to us by our community,” said Rounds. “We are hopeful we can make a difference each year, even if it is only one student. We know every penny counts, just as it did for my family. And we are so thankful we have the ability to do that now. We give in the hope that it will inspire others to help when and where it matters. Congratulations to all the students here. We are very proud of you.”
The program closed with two scholarship recipients giving words of thanks and sharing their experiences in college. First up was Suzanna LeFebvre of Mt. Vernon, who, after becoming homeless without a high school degree, found herself succeeding at RLC thanks, in part, to donors who made her dream a reality. She is currently a sophomore music major who aspires to become a music therapist.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I always dreamt about going to college and becoming an adult with a big career and lots of money; however, that dream started to fade when I was 18 and found myself without a home and a high school education,” said LeFebvre. “With no money and no job and no diploma to get a job, how was I going to be anyone?”
She continued, “After two years of hard work and getting good grades, I applied to the State Board of Education to receive my diploma. When I graduated, I received two scholarships that have helped me immensely. This year, I was even more blessed to receive scholarships again. The scholarships I have received have helped me – someone who once thought they were a nobody – to go to college to pursue a dream I once thought was impossible to reach.”
Last to take the podium was sophomore Phillip Smith of Christopher who shared the hardships of going back to school while also working and taking care of his family. Smith will graduate in May with an Associate Degree in Nursing.
“I went back to college after a less-than-stellar performance in high school. I went back, not as a teenager fresh out of high school, but as a husband and father several years after the fact. I’d often given a considerable thought about going back to school to join the medical community, but the financial ability often played a role in preventing that from occurring,” said Smith.
He continued, “Were it not for the generous donations of each and every one of you here tonight, myself and many other students might well be stalled in our efforts of laying the foundations of our own success. It is a great relief to have one less burden to bear so that our focus can be placed solely on our grades in the classroom and beyond. This summer, I will proudly be able to call myself a registered nurse. This is an achievement I can take a great deal of pride in, not only because of the hard work and long hours required to attain it, but also because, just a few years ago, it was nothing more than a dream. Your commitment to helping me achieve that is a gift I cannot possibly thank you enough for. That being said, I’ll give it a try. Thank you everyone, for every opportunity you’ve given to every recipient here, for your generosity and selflessness. You have done so much more than you know.”
During the 2018-19 academic year, the RLC Foundation has awarded nearly $200,000 in scholarships to Rend Lake College students. Incoming and current students can complete the 2019-20 RLC Foundation Scholarship application online at www.rlc.edu/foundation.
Those who would like to learn more about supporting RLC students with a scholarship, contact the RLCF at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1214, or send an e-mail . Legence Bank sponsored the event.