A car repair. An unexpected medical bill. A family emergency.

These are common scenarios faced by Alexandria Technical & Community College students. These emergencies threaten a student’s ability to stay in school.

In response, the ATCC Foundation recently held an event to raise money for these students in need.

On the brisk evening of Oct. 24, the ATCC Foundation hosted its first annual Believers & Achievers Gala. This new fundraising event included live and silent auctions, a wine pull game, a chance to win a pellet grill and a live giving moment.

The response from the Alexandria area community was spectacular. A sold-out crowd attended the gala at the Legacy of the Lakes Boathouse.

The outpouring of community support and generosity of the gala attendees helped the ATCC Foundation surpass its fundraising goal and raise $100,000 for the Student Success Fund. This fund allows the ATCC Foundation to provide the most flexible support to help students stay in school.

One way the Student Success Fund helps students is through emergency funding.

Larry Lawal, one of the evening’s speakers, is a second-year student in ATCC’s Business Management program. Lawal benefited from emergency funding from the ATCC Foundation.

Lawal was born in Nigeria and education was a priority to him. He has cousins who live in the United States, so he moved to pursue his dreams of higher education.

As a child, he remembers his desire to be successful. He would envision himself wearing crisp suits and commanding the attention of others with the loud clicking his fancy shoes made when he walked.

In his own words, here is his story.

“In the spring of 2019, I was going to take a break from school because I was financially drained and there was no way I could pay my tuition for the spring semester. Then someone at the college told me about an emergency fund from the ATCC Foundation which I may qualify for. Fortunately, I qualified for funding and received help for my tuition and books for spring semester.

I was relieved, I was like a little kid with a bowl of candy. I was so happy and I was literally jumping around the whole house. This grant allowed me to be able to concentrate more on school and reduce the hours that I put in to work and then dedicate those extra hours to school. This helped me to become a Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society student in the spring 2019 semester, the same semester that I got the grant.”

Other ATCC students have shared similar success as Lawal. In the 2018-2019 school year, 75% of ATCC students who received emergency funding were successful in continuing their schooling.

ATCC’s new president, Michael Seymour, spoke about the importance of supporting students through life’s obstacles so they can finish their degree. He recounted his own struggles in enrolling and paying for his first semester of college. It was a groundskeeper who noticed he looked lost and anxious and led him to the right office. Seymour shared that if not for that groundskeeper, he might not be where he is today.

The ATCC Foundation looks forward to hosting another Believers & Achievers Gala in the fall of 2020.

Emily Geris is the Annual Giving & Communications Manager for the Alexandria Technical & Community College Foundation.