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The Reach

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Giving Students a Lifeline to Completion

Giving Students a Lifeline to Completion

Peggy Hicks, Anthony Bernal, and Alicia Diggs have something in common. They were all bright students struggling to stay in college until Phi Theta Kappa’s Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship cleared the obstacles in their path to completion.

Of the $90 million in scholarships available to PTK members, the Oberndorf Scholarship is the only one that specifically helps students complete college credentials despite personal challenges that could derail their education plans. Up to 15 $1,000 Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarships are awarded annually.

The scholarship was created by the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation and the 2011-2012 International Officer Team and is named for benefactors Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf.

“At a community college, we know it doesn’t take much to throw (students) off the track to completion,” Lou said. “Completion is critical to me. Completion is the signal to the world that you’ve achieved something, and it will stay with you the rest of your life.”

These three students share how the scholarship kept them on track to complete degrees and pursue their dream careers.

Peggy Hicks

Peggy Hicks worked as a bookkeeper and office manager while raising her family but looked forward to going back to school to earn a college degree. She enrolled in nursing school at Lone Star College, and just when she thought everything was going perfectly, her husband filed for a divorce.

Peggy was the president of her PTK chapter, a recipient of the Student Life Leadership Award, and an inductee in the Texas District IV Hall of Honor; yet she had reached a financial breaking point. Her annual textbook bill was $1,200 aside from tuition and expenses. The prospect of dropping out in her second year — when she was so close to the finish line — loomed over her.

That’s when Peggy received an Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship, which covered the cost of her expensive nursing textbooks for the next semester. She went on to earn her LPN nursing degree and is now living her longtime dream — working as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at OakBend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas.

“At 49 years old, I've experienced quite a bit in my life, but some of my most treasured memories revolve around my involvement with Phi Theta Kappa,” Peggy said. “It allowed me to perfect my leadership skills, gave me the confidence to know that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, and I made lifelong friends who have become an extension of my family.”

Anthony Bernal

At the beginning of 2013, Anthony Bernal was serving as PTK’s Delaware President of the Middle States Region and pursuing a degree at Delaware Technical and Community College when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Even though he had a Pell grant and a job, the money he saved for school was quickly being eaten away by medical expenses.

But thanks to an Oberndorf Scholarship, Anthony completed degrees in both computer-aided engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering degree at Widener University in Pennsylvania.

Anthony recently finished second place in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers conference sponsored by Nissan.

“We were asked to create a new or enhance a current comfort feature in an automobile,” he said. “As a result, I got three job interviews (with Nissan, GM, and John Deere) and received a verbal commitment from Nissan to work for them as soon as I graduate.”

Alicia Diggs

For Alicia Diggs, an accounting major at Northeast Texas Community College, the Oberndorf Scholarship was truly a lifeline. She maintained a 3.9 grade point average on 18 hours of classwork while helping her 13-year-old son fight ossifying fibroma, a condition that produces bone lesions in the jaw. Alicia spent countless hours driving him to various doctor’s appointments and studying in hospital waiting rooms. The medical expenses also took a toll on her budget.

With the help of the Oberndorf Scholarship, she completed her associate and bachelor’s degrees and earned a master’s degree in taxation from the University of North Texas. Alicia is now working as an accountant in Lafayette, Louisiana.

“I feel life is like a deck of cards you are dealt,” she said. “My cards haven't been the greatest, but I play them to the best of my ability for my children and myself."

Are you a member who is facing a hardship that is standing in the way of your college credential? Apply now before the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion application closes on May 1.



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