Learning Locally, Living Globally
Staying local for college doesn’t mean that you can’t be a world traveler, which is what Alaina Ashley
and her parents discovered. In 2019, Alaina became an exchange student in Germany. As a part of the
program, she graduated from her home high school in Ludington, and since then, has completed a
second senior year at a German high school. Alaina didn’t want her year abroad to impact her progress
toward a college degree in the U.S., so she decided to pursue an associate of arts degree at WSCC using
the Promise, while also going to high school full-time in Germany. “I was initially worried about how it
would be to take online college classes, but I was excited to learn new subjects and topics that weren’t
available in high school.”
Alaina’s long-term goals include completing a degree at WSCC and obtaining a teaching degree from a
German university. She says she’s “pleasantly surprised” that the distance hasn’t affected how close she
feels to peers and professors in her WSCC classes. “The easy accessibility and the quick and friendly
answers from WSCC Advisors, like Jill Sweet” have been enjoyable. She’s also been able to participate in
online scavenger hunts despite being in a different country and time zone.
Leona Ashley, Alaina’s mother, had concerns about potential financial responsibility and college debt
Alaina might incur from college. The Ashley family planned for college when their children were young,
“I put a little money away, but not enough. [The Promise] allows for so much.” The minimal costs of
sending her children to WSCC using the Promise has been a surprise, explained Leona, especially “that
everything is free—We had to pay for books, but since 3 out of our 4 children are going there, they
shared.” As a Ferris and GVSU alumna, Leona Ashley recognized that young adults want to get away,
but as a parent, she values the option her children have had to stay close to home. “The two years at
West Shore allows your children to grow up more and become more responsible. If, like Alaina, they
want to live elsewhere, that is doable as well.”
Alaina, who is now a student and a nanny for a German family, shared that online courses have allowed
her to spend even more time abroad. Both Alaina and Leona Ashley feel that they’ve had a valuable
experience using the Promise Scholarship at WSCC. “This program is fantastic, and I am so relieved that
our children have had the opportunity to use it,” stated Leona.
Though Bailey's scar is fading, her ambition to succeed is only becoming stronger!
Promise Scholar Follows Her Heart
Until two months before her 2021 graduation from Ludington High School, Bailey Streeter was considering going away to college. Covid quarantine had limited much of her ability to get out of the house, and she wanted to have a new experience. “I’ve never traveled a lot, so being able to live somewhere else, like in a dorm, sounds fun to me,” she said. But in March 2021, Streeter, an excellent student involved in LHS band and on the bowling team, had an experience that changed her college trajectory. “I often had heart palpitations so I thought I wasn’t good at sports because of them, but at one of my Bowling meets, my heart hurt.” Streeter’s mom took her daughter to the local ER, who sent her to DeVos [Children’s Hospital]. At DeVos, they found a 34mm hole in her heart—an atrial septal defect. Streeter’s “broken heart,” as she calls it, required open heart surgery.
In light of needing major surgery, Streeter talked with her mom about options for college, and decided her best option was to start at West Shore Community College, using the Promise Scholarship. She signed up right after she got back from DeVos. Streeter’s successful surgery happened just weeks before her high school graduation. Though left with a large scar, she recovered quickly enough to walk with her graduating class that May. The young student was grateful that the Promise and WSCC made changing her mind “a lot easier” because of the fast application and acceptance process. “In many ways, my scar has opened doors for me,” she shared.
Now at WSCC, Streeter has a plan to get an Associate of Science so that she can transfer to GVSU and become a cardiovascular sonographer. After needing a number of EKGs, “I have become obsessed with the heart,” Streeter said, adding that her experience in the hospital made her believe in her ability to be a sonographer. But the road has had its challenges—namely, the pandemic, which has compelled so many first-year students across the nation to take online courses to stay safe. “I was surprised how unmotivated I was,” Streeter explained about her first semester in college. “I learn face-to-face so having online classes was a struggle.” Streeter worked through this struggle by reaching out to her professors, getting referred to support, setting aside specific times each week to do coursework outside of class, and by asking for what she needed, which in one course was more time to complete the work. Bailey’s college decision process was unique, but her experience in navigating her first year of college in the pandemic is a common story, that students need to hear: If you need support or you struggle, it is normal, okay, and there is help, so just ask.
Ultimately, Street is excited about college so far. “I really like how different it is, how many resources there are, and being able to meet new people from day to day.” In her first semester, Streeter joined WSCC’s drumline, and looks forward to more in-person opportunities. “The Promise Scholarship is already too good to be true,” she shared, adding that she’d still absolutely encourage high school students to consider all of their options when considering college. “Make sure the college you’re going to is the best fit for you and for the career that you want.” For Streeter, right now, WSCC is the best option, because she can be close to home, get support from WSCC, and can transfer to GVSU after she earns her first degree. In the meantime, the aspiring sonographer is only looking ahead. “Who doesn’t want a free degree!?” quipped Streeter, happy to have the Promise at a college close to home.
Goodman Graduates from WSCC and Continues to Make Progress on Ferris Degree while Remaining at WSCC
Samanatha Goodman was first inspired to pursue a career through a CTE course in high school. "I started being interested in teaching in my junior year of high school at Mason County Eastern," said Goodman, "by trying the Educator Academy through CTE." Now, Goodman, a 2019 MCE graduate from Fountain, is a WSCC Associate Degree holder, who is also taking Ferris courses through WSCC, and looking forward to transferring to Ferris in 2022 to major in elementary education. "I graduated in Winter 2021 with an Associate Arts and Sciences and am planning to transfer to Ferris after Winter 2022."
WSCC has multiple programs that offer classes through partner institutions, while students remain at WSCC. After Goodman got her first degree, she planned to “take as many Ferris classes through West Shore before I transfer," which will reduce the amount of Ferris credits required and related tuition costs later. "The Mason County Promise has helped me afford tuition, and to get a feel for what college is all about," Goodman said, adding that, "WSCC provides ample resources and services that are essential for academic growth and building confidence."
Apart from her studies, Goodman has gotten involved in PTK honors society at WSCC, which allows her to give back to her community through service projects. The ambitious scholar also holds a job as a local preschool teacher at her church. Goodman's career goals include completion of a bachelor’s and a master's degree in education. "I plan to teach and want to continue helping my community in Mason County." Goodman even spoke at the 2021 MCE Decision Day event, as a way to give back to her high school and share her positive experiences in pursuing a degree locally. “I would encourage students to find what interests them and use the Promise," she stated. "Students have the opportunities to explore at WSCC and identify what they want to do for the future—every experience is worth it! Having a tuition free opportunity is beneficial!”
To find out more about the Mason County Promise, visit masoncountypromise.org
Promise Recipient Accepted into New EEG Program at WSCC
Since 2018, the Mason County Promise Zone has offered tuition and fees scholarships at West Shore
Community College (WSCC) to all Mason County residents who graduate with a 2.0 or better and live in
Mason County. Carli Kandalec, a 2018 Ludington High School graduate, used her scholarship to achieve
an associate degree in fall 2020, and will now use the Promise Scholarship to pursue the brand-new
Electroencephalogram (EEG) program at WSCC.
“I realized I could save more money going to WSCC instead of moving away, because universities cost so
much,” said Kandalec, adding that initially, she wanted to pursue EEG, but neither WSCC or Ferris
offered those programs at the time.
The first cohort of the EEG program, which trains students on using high-tech equipment that examines
brainwaves, consists of two students, and Kandalec applied with hopes that she would be one of the
two. Having achieved a degree already, she was qualified, but Kandalec also used her time at WSCC to
do more than just study: She gave back to her community.
A professor suggested that Kandalec become the president of a student organization that she hadn’t
even heard of, called PTK. And she took the chance, sharing that “I’ve been able to meet more people,
gain communication skills, and plan events like trivia nights, a book club, and a food drive.”
The food drive had to be done with social distancing and virtual meetings due the pandemic. “We all
came together and collected food from the community and were able to provide six big boxes of food to
each of the Mason County high schools,” Kandalec stated, adding, “It was amazing and heartwarming to
see that something small that we did, helped us give back to the school that we went to. All of the food
went into gift bags that helped families out during winter break, and the food was especially helpful
because of Covid and the limitations of access to food.”
The Promise scholarship helped make this happen by supporting Kandalec’s college tuition expenses, so
she didn’t have to work as much to pay for those expenses.
“The Promise has worked out,” according to Kandalec, in ways she never imagined. It has allowed her to
pursue a program that she always wanted but initially couldn’t find, to live in her home community and
give back to it, and to save money, and work less so that she could graduate and pursue not just one
degree, but an additional certificate.
Consider the Promise Scholarship and WSCC as a great start to any future career.