WHEEL Scholarship propels students to brighter futures
Three women accepted the WHEEL Scholarship, and therefore another chance at earning a college degree, at the LAFCU headquarters in Lansing on Sept. 3.
WHEEL (Women Helping Educate Every Lady) is an LCC-only scholarship. It is designed by LAFCU to help women who want to learn a new skill or trade in order to become more competitive in their career, according to Kelli Ellsworth-Etchison, vice president of community and business development at LAFCU.
This year’s winners were Elsa Gallegos, mother of six; Michelle Cunningham, mother of three; and Yvette Donahue, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to a conflicting class schedule. These ladies were chosen from around 35 applicants, according to Ellsworth-Etchison.
“(The scholarship) was born on this idea of women being displaced, whether they had stayed home to raise their children, whether they were downsized from their career, whatever the reason,” Ellsworth-Etchison said.
Ellsworth-Etchison played a key role in the scholarship’s creation after meeting a woman who was struggling to re-enter the workforce after being downsized from a position she had held for 20 years.
Each year the scholarship awards $1,000 to three women to help them further their education at LCC, although a man would also be considered for the scholarship if he applied. Since becoming active in 2013, WHEEL has helped nine women return to school, according to Ellsworth-Etchison.
Ellsworth-Etchison said LAFCU budgets for the $3,000 throughout the year in an effort to give back to the Lansing community.
To be eligible, applicants must live in LAFCU’s service area and write a one-page essay addressing their career choice, what they’re going back to school for, what their inspiration is for going back and why they are going back now.
Ellsworth-Etchison said LAFCU has been partnered with LCC for many years, so it only made sense to choose LCC as the college for the scholarship.
“We’re a community credit union, LCC is a community college, so it’s a perfect fit,” she said. “LCC’s mission seems to really align well with our mission of people helping people and with helping people to give back to your community, stay in their community and just have a fresh start within their community.”
Gallegos said the scholarship will help her get the education she needs to advance her career.
“Interviewing for a year and not getting (the job) … only to find out that somebody young and fresh out of college got the position over me,” Gallegos said. “It was very frustrating and at that point I realized that you need an education to succeed in life to get to where you want.”
Cunningham said the scholarship gave her the push she needed to return to LCC after being out since the late 1980s.
“To get that first start, that shove, to get going and then realizing that you can do it; that for me was huge,” she said. “It was like ‘oh, I can do this and I don’t have to worry about taxing any other budget anywhere.’”
Gallegos had not gone to college since the mid-1980s. She said the decision to go back to school after so long was intimidating, but the education is worth it to improve her career.
“It was scary, but just like with anything, you have to make yourself step through that door,” Gallegos said. “No matter how scary it is, you just have to do it.”
The WHEEL Scholarship is usually promoted on LAFCU’s website in early summer in order to get students ready for fall semester.
For more information about LAFCU and, when it is offered, the WHEEL Scholarship, visit www.lafcu.com/