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A-B Tech Launches New Honor Student Scholarship

February 5, 2014

Ethan and Jacqueline Wingfield

Thanks to a generous donation from an alumnus, the A-B Tech Community College Foundation has established a new honor student scholarship with the goal of attracting the best and brightest from Western North Carolina.

“The scholarship would be for honor students who don’t have the funding, or enough funding, to attend college,” said Sue Olesiuk, Executive Director of the Foundation. 

Olesiuk said attracting students who have demonstrated academic excellence is a renewed focus for the College. “If you’ve done well in school, given back to your community, and you can demonstrate financial need, we want to recognize you with a scholarship.”

To qualify for the scholarship beginning in Fall 2014, high school students must have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership potential, commit to completing the courses needed to transfer from A-B Tech, go on to complete a Bachelor’s degree and give back to the community.  Preference would be given to students who are first generation college students. The scholarship would be renewable as long as the student maintains a 3.5 GPA.

The scholarship was established with an initial donation from 28-year old Ethan Wingfield and his wife Jacqueline.  Ethan is an A-B Tech alumnus who went on to graduate from Brown University. His donation was matched by his employer, Capital One, where he serves as Strategy Director.

Wingfield says his goal was to establish a scholarship that attracts students who have academic potential and are committed to giving back to Western North Carolina.  “It’s somebody with high potential, who will go on to earn a college education, and over the course of their lifetime, really seek to give back and make this community a better place.” Wingfield says one of the challenges facing the region is making sure the best and brightest continue to call Western North Carolina home.

Wingfield says he and his wife believe in the importance of community colleges. Workforce training, he says, is vital to the local economy in Western North Carolina.  “There are so many jobs here; A-B Tech is a place you can get the training you need.  The College is a critical component of the region’s economy.”

Wingfield also believes community colleges, like A-B Tech, are valuable for folks who may be the first in their family to go to college or are looking to save money. “You can stay at home with your family. It’s a practical way to begin your college education. In addition, we also wanted to encourage folks, particularly with financial needs, to start their college education in the community.  It’s cost effective and will set them up for success in the long run.”

Wingfield knows the benefit of attending a community college. He was home-schooled until he enrolled in A-B Tech in 2001 and before advancing to Brown University. He believes he wouldn’t have done as well academically at Brown if he hadn’t begun his college career at A-B Tech. “The teachers, professors and instructors are incredibly skilled and gifted in the areas they cover.  They taught me to rise to a level of excellence that enabled me to go on and succeed at a competitive and challenging environment like Brown.” 

Now that Wingfield has made the initial donation to establish the “Ethan and Jacqueline Wingfield Scholarship for Promising Leaders,” A-B Tech will get the information out to area high schools to let students know about this new honor student scholarship.

Olesiuk and the Office of College Advancement will also work to encourage the community to make a commitment to invest in A-B Tech the way Ethan did.  “We will work with organizations that are particularly interested in supporting academically strong students to attend A-B Tech.”

This scholarship is just one of more than 300 available to A-B Tech students.  “All current and future students are encouraged to see what other scholarships would be of interest,” says Olesiuk.  There are scholarships for specific programs of study, minority students, single parents, and women whose educations were interrupted and are now coming back to school.  Donations to the Foundation come from individual donors, civic organizations, and businesses who believe that A-B Tech is a sound investment in the economy of Western North Carolina.  Through the Financial Aid office, A-B Tech has a number of additional financial aid options for qualified students.

A-B Tech also has an employee giving program.  “We have just passed the $30,000 mark in employee giving this year to support our scholarships. That shows the belief our A-B Tech family has in our students,” Olesiuk said.  

In addition, A-B Tech also raises funds for its scholarship program through events like its annual golf tournament.  This year, the College will host a new event called “Autumn in Asheville” on October 2.

The need for financial assistance at the College is great. More than 68 percent of A-B Tech’s students need some form of aid. With an average age of 27, many students are raising families and working part-time while attending school. 

Olesiuk says she’s seeing an increased interest in the College’s scholarship program from donors who see how vital an economic engine A-B Tech is to the community.  Many of the area’s dental and physician offices would close without a trained staff of A-B Tech graduates. “We educate a large proportion of health care workers, whether it’s nurses, medical assistants, or dental hygienists.  All the EMTs, police, fire, depend on us and realize the value of the education the students receive here for those jobs.” The College currently has over 60 programs of study in addition to its college transfer degree program.

Olesiuk says the College runs on a model of demand and supply.  “If there’s a demand in the workforce, we will supply it.” Several years ago, local veterinarians said they needed additional Veterinary Technicians in their offices. The College quickly worked with the state and started a Veterinary Medical Technology program, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Besides A-B Tech’s scholarship program, Olesiuk says the College also seeks grants to support students.  For example, Bank of America will be supporting the GED Bridge program, whereby students who are about to complete their GED exam and are ready to enroll at A-B Tech will get the financial support, mentoring and help they need to succeed.

To learn more about charitable giving and to support the work of the Foundation, please visit www.abtech.edu/advancement.

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Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate degrees, diplomas and certificates.  Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

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