Jul 29 2013
This article was published on Jul 29 2013 and was archived on Jul 30 2014. The information below may be outdated or inaccurate.
Richmond, Va. - Virginia's Community Colleges abound with life-changing moments for thousands of students across the Commonwealth. For David Jezierski, Meagan Gay and eight other outstanding community college students, opportunity came knocking when they were selected for the 2012-2013 class of the prestigious Valley Proteins Fellows scholarship program.
Out of the more than 400,000 people served by Virginia's Community Colleges, only ten are selected each year as Valley Proteins Fellows. The program, which began with the 2011-2012 class, is now in its third year and is made possible through a generous donation by Valley Proteins, Inc., based in Winchester, Va. The approximate value of the scholarship, accompanied with professional development, travel and cultural opportunities, as well as a stipend for an internship and a community service project, totals up to $10,000 per Fellow.
Danny Hazelwood of Blacksburg was a Valley Proteins Fellow during the academic year 2011-2012 when he was a student at New River Community College.
Both Jezierski and Gay credited the professors and helpful administrators at Lord Fairfax Community College and Rappahannock Community College, respectively, for making them aware of the Valley Proteins Fellows scholarship and encouraging them to apply.
"Being selected as a Valley Proteins Fellow in June 2012 was an unbelievable honor," said Jezerski. "The financial support allowed me to say 'Yes' to opportunities in my second year of college that would advance my career goals. Plus, there were professional development seminars to develop our leadership skills and even a trip to Richmond to meet Governor McDonnell, Senator Warner and other VIPs."
Gay, who commented that she was very humbled and honored when she was notified about being selected as a Fellow, agreed that the scholarship's financial aid was especially helpful to her family, which was faced with some sizeable medical expenses for a sick grandparent. "The Valley Proteins scholarship relieved my parents and me from having to stress about the financial aspect of paying for college."
A major component of being a Valley Proteins Fellow is dedicating many hours to a community service project. Jezierski interned in his college's math department, learning how to teach math at the community college level, his career aspiration. Gay, an avid horse lover, volunteered at B&R Ranch in Fredericksburg, which is an equestrian therapy program for students with special needs and disabilities.
"Thanks to the generous stipend of the Valley Proteins Fellows program, I was able to tutor students in math," remarked Jezierski. Added Gay, "I learned how to interact and communicate with people who have physical, mental or behavioral challenges. This wouldn't have been possible without the Valley Proteins scholarship."
Jezierski and Gay know that the new class of Fellows is about to embark on a rewarding experience in the coming year. In their opinion, being named as Valley Proteins Fellows put them on the path to future success in the workforce. Jezierski plans to major in math at JMU and Gay will study chemistry at the College of William and Mary. Both of these 4-year colleges participate in a guaranteed transfer agreement with Virginia's Community Colleges as long as certain GPA requirements are met.
"My brother and I are pleased to support the Valley Proteins Fellows program because it provides us with the opportunity to support communities where our business operates," said Michael A. Smith, Vice President of Valley Proteins, Inc. Smith currently chairs the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, the supporting arm for the Virginia Community College System.
According to Smith, the state's community colleges offer an excellent return on investment for any businesses that contribute funding to the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education. "Approximately 90 percent of students that attend a community college wil