While the COVID-19 pandemic has put much on hold this year — even the possibility that colleges, universities and post-secondary trade schools may not actually open for students — Coachella Valley graduates are nonetheless moving forward with their plans for higher-education.
Some students of four-year institutions have already packed and moved on campus; some are online-only, such as those enrolled at College of the Desert but most are navigating a hybrid affair of digital classes with limited in-person learning.
It’s against this backdrop that Ironwood Country Club Employee Scholarship Fund has adapted. “We are very aware of how the COVID virus will continue to mandate a new way of living,” said John Cleveland, chairman of the fund. “This includes higher education and how we manage our scholarship criteria. With many people being temporarily unemployed, we are prepared for many individual exceptions this year, and we’ll be as fluid as possible with all decisions.”
Jill Luft, a founding member of the fund committee, said: “We have been awarding approximately 15 scholarships per year, and while I do believe that our students will move forward with their 2020 plans, I expect there to be many more online classes. Our committee is committed to adapt to this unique environment.”
This year, many students are also faced with outfitting their rooms with the technology to cope with distance learning, remote professors and video classes. In understanding this additional cost, the Ironwood Scholarship Fund is offering computers to each new grant recipient.
“Our goal at Ironwood is to give back to our fantastic staff who are a part of our family,” Luft said. “And our members continue to be very supportive each and every year.”
The Ironwood Employee Scholarship Fund was started in 2006 by a group of voluntary members who wanted to provide educational opportunities for their employees and their families. Since inception, they have awarded 165 grants to 63 students totaling about $800,000.
Two of the program’s beneficiaries are Emelyn Avina and Matt Roy. “Stanford has always been my dream school,” Avina said. “I had the amazing opportunity of obtaining my bachelor’s degree at Stanford University, so I am incredibly excited to go back for law school and pursue my dream to becoming a lawyer.”
Roy said: “The Ironwood Employee Scholarship Fund helped me immensely throughout my college journey — I graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2018 with a BA in Journalism and earned a Masters in Sports Journalism from Arizona State in the fall of 2019. I will always be profoundly grateful to the members at Ironwood Country Club.”
Ironwood Country Club is one of over 18 local clubs that provide an employee scholarship program administered by the Desert Community Foundation. This fall, the foundation will administer $1.7 million in awards to 315 students from the Coachella Valley.
Pamela Bieri is a longtime Coachella Valley freelance writer as well as a marketing, media relations and development consultant for several nonprofits, including Alzheimers Coachella Valley. She also volunteers for various programs at ACV each week.