Baptist and Southwest Team Up to Serve Community, Assist Students

Team up. Reach out.

Funding from Baptist is helping some Southwest Tennessee Community College students serve the local community while they work toward their degree.

The College Ready Scholarship for Health Care program at Southwest Tennessee Community College is in its first year, with nine students participating.  While Baptist has provided funding for scholarships before, Southwest Tennessee Community College Executive Director for Institutional Development Rose Landey says this program goes much further.

“This is the most intensive program we have offered and the first time we have had a volunteerism component,” said Rose.  “Students are participating in community service, being introduced to the Baptist culture and gaining valuable experience.  It has been a tremendous success.”

To qualify, students must be in their third or fourth semester, complete an essay explaining why they should receive the scholarship, and agree to perform 10 to 15 hours of community service for each semester they have the scholarship (among other criteria). A committee of Baptist representatives—Community Involvement Manager Cynthia Allen, System Community Outreach Specialist Dexter McKinney, System Community Outreach Coordinator Ann Marie Wallace and Baptist Women’s Hospital Chief Financial Officer Margaret Williams—interviewed the candidates and reviewed their essays.

“I cannot say enough about the involvement and commitment of the Baptist committee,” said Rose.  “They have just been phenomenal.  The majority of these students are the first in their family to attend college and also are non-traditional students, so their lives are very busy.  They are committed to going to school, and these funds help make that possible.”

One participating student, dietary technician major Shanita Mack, is teaching nutrition and assisting clients in the food pantry at Friends for Life, an organization dedicated to helping people affect by HIV/AIDS.  She also is helping set up breakfast and lunch in a local school through the Head Start program. And soon, she will begin volunteering with the WIC Clinic, where she will assist with monitoring the nutrition of expectant mothers and their children.

“The whole experience has been so wonderful,” says Shanita.  “It’s helpful to be able to put what you are learning to work and see results.”  Courtney West, a nursing major, said the funds have allowed her to cut back on overtime, focus more on her education, and even see her family in eastern Tennessee occasionally.  “I did not realize the extent of community service that Baptist provides,” said Courtney.  “It feels good to participate and know you are helping.” Courtney assisted with a book sale at Baptist, which raised funds to provide clothing for those in need.

“These students are juggling a great deal,” said Rose. “They are enrolled in very comprehensive classes.  But they are also very committed to volunteering.  And because 90 to 95 percent of Southwest Tennessee Community College students remain in the local area after graduation, this program enhances their ability to work here and contribute.  It’s tremendous that Baptist and Southwest Tennessee Community College can work together to give these students these experiences.”