Foundation brings donors together with scholarship recipients

Six people posing, both donors and student recipients
Donors to the Lee College Foundation met the recipients of their scholarships Friday, April 7, 2017, at the 15th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast. The annual gathering allows students to share with donors how their generosity has made a difference. Pictured from left: Louise Mann, donor; Drake Salinas, student; Nancy Mann, donor; Denia Aleman, student; Michael Mann, donor; and Claudia Wyles, representing corporate donor Community Resource Credit Union.

For the individuals and businesses that donate to the Lee College Foundation, there is no greater proof of the positive impact of their generosity than meeting and hearing the stories of students awarded tuition and textbook scholarships.

Students like Maryori Portillo, a first-generation college student and recipient of the Wallace Heaner Tuition Scholarship and John and Stella Pepper Textbook Scholarship who had children at a young age and dropped out of high school. After earning her GED and experiencing difficulties in her first try at higher education, Portillo came to Lee College and enrolled in two classes: English and speech. Instructors recognized she had special talent, but the cost of out-of-district tuition and other expenses nearly forced her to quit school after just one semester.

“They immediately saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself and introduced me to the Honors Program,” Portillo shared April 7 at the 15th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, where donors connected with scholarship recipients and learned firsthand how the funds made a difference in their lives.

“Thanks to the scholarships, I was able to return to school,” she said. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to go to sleep without college tuition keeping you up at night. It’s a weight lifted off your shoulders and a worry gone. I would not be standing here without your help.”

Or students like Audra Smith, a process technology major and intern at Chevron Phillips Chemical who received a workforce scholarship from the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA). EHCMA donated $170,000 to Lee College this year for student scholarships and other support for craft and technology programs.

A donor and two students stand and pose.
The Lee College Foundation hosted a reception Tuesday, March 28, 2017, for students who received workforce scholarships from the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) to meet managers and other personnel from the association’s member companies. EHCMA donated $170,000 to Lee College this year for student scholarships and other support for craft and technology programs. Pictured (l-r): Jarvis Booker, student; Bear Estrada of Ohmstede; and Tevin Goodman, student.

Just before she started classes, Smith lost her home to a fire and learned her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Four months into the program, her mother passed away – and soon after, so did her father and grandfather. Knowing she would not have to worry about paying for school helped her persist in the program despite her losses, determined to earn her degree and keep the promises she made to herself and her family.

“Workforce scholarships help us, as students, achieve our greatness,” Smith told managers and leaders from EHCMA’s member companies in late March at a student and donor networking reception hosted by the foundation. “By donating money for these scholarships, you all are changing lives every day.”

Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, the Lee College Foundation has raised outside funds since 1968 to provide for student needs. The fund balance for the foundation now exceeds $10 million and all students are eligible to receive scholarships — those pursuing academic and technical degrees, as well as those enrolled full-time, part-time, in dual-credit classes for high-school students to earn college credits, in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development, and in the Lee College Huntsville Center prison program.

Although the foundation has historically focused on accepting scholarship funds, board members consider other worthwhile initiatives that directly affect student success and promote the student’s ability to reach their education goals. To that end, tax-deductible contributions from industry and private donors also support the Student Success Fund, created to help those facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses that might otherwise derail their journey.

“One of the most heartwarming things about Lee College is knowing how much this community loves this institution,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “The consistent outpouring of generosity helps ensure students can do the three most important things: enroll, persist and graduate. We want them to get here, stay here and leave here with a degree.”

For more information about donating to the Lee College Foundation, contact Executive Director  Pam Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@lee.edu.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee College Foundation Gala raises record $175,000 for scholarships and support

Foundation Board will award a total of more than $470,000 to students this academic year

Gala Fundraiser
The Thursday Night Band, a Lee College ensemble featuring students Emily Vaughan, Simon Flores, and Andrew Adams-Whitehead, performs at the 31st annual Lee College Foundation Gala, held in September at Sylvan Beach Pavilion in LaPorte. The gala raised a record $175,000 that will be used for student scholarships and other forms of support.

BAYTOWN, TX — With nearly 400 guests in attendance and $175,000 raised, the 31st annual Lee College Foundation Gala was a record-breaking success that will help ensure deserving students at all levels will have the scholarships and other forms of support they need to pursue higher education.

And while many college and university foundations only offer scholarships to students attending school full-time, the Lee College Foundation will  instead focus on meeting students’ needs wherever they are.

Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, the foundation will award more than $470,000 to students this academic year, and all are eligible: those enrolled full-time; part-time; in dual-credit classes for high-school students to earn college credits; in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development; and in the Lee College Huntsville Center prison program.

“Many of our students are surprised and amazed that somebody they don’t know is willing to donate funds to help them get an education,” said Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation and director of Foundation and Donor Relations. “The gala provides an opportunity for industry and the community to celebrate together and gives us the chance to thank those donors, who are so loyal and proud to have their own community college that’s doing so well.”

Tax-deductible contributions from industry and private donors are also used to support the Student Success Fund, created to help those facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses. When a student was notified that she would receive a Pell Grant for her tuition — but not before the deadline when her classes would be dropped for non-payment — the Student Success Fund helped bridge the gap. When a student received a $400 textbook scholarship but still lacked several books she needed for her rigorous coursework in the nursing program, the Student Success Fund provided the additional money to buy all the books required for her class.

“Enrollment is one thing, but students have to persist, stay the course and graduate,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “So many little things can impede a student’s progress and we have to be able to step in and help them. Financial contributions are immensely important — more important now than ever.”

As the foundation continues in its mission to provide financial support to Lee College students, board members hope to see more donors choosing planned giving by setting up bequests, charitable trusts and annuities that will allow them to make a lasting difference for generations to come.

“I’m excited about my future,” said Emily Vaughan, a native Baytonian and foundation scholarship recipient who is active in Lee College Theatre and plans to attend Sam Houston State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in music education at Sam Houston State University. “None of this would be possible without donations. They really lightened my load.”

For more information about giving to the Lee College Foundation, contact Warford at pwarford@lee.edu or visit www.lee.edu/foundation.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Sell-out crowd expected for Lee College Foundation Gala

Highly anticipated event raises money for scholarships and other student support

Photo of those attending the 2015 Gala.
The 30th annual Lee College Foundation Gala held in 2015 drew 350 guests and raised a record-setting $150,000 for scholarships and other forms of student support. Tickets for this year’s gala have already sold out.

BAYTOWN, TX — A sell-out crowd will enjoy food, music, silent and live auctions and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Lee College students at the 31st annual Lee College Foundation Gala, which will be held at Sylvan Beach Pavilion to raise much-needed funds for scholarships and other forms of student support.

The gala is set for Thursday, Sept. 15, and will begin with a social hour at 6:30 p.m., followed by a seated dinner at 7:30 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by Lee College student musical ensembles and Skyline, a Houston-based band well known for deftly performing a wide range of styles — from classic rock and country to Motown, Latin, jazz and the big band sound that was popular at the historic pavilion in its heyday.

“Over the years, attendance and proceeds from the gala have increased due to the generosity of individuals, businesses and industry in this community and the surrounding area,” said Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation. “These donors believe in education and realize that it can change lives and open doors to opportunities. Students continue to be amazed that contributors have given money to help someone they’ve never met attend college.”

The first Foundation Gala was held in the early 1980s at the suggestion of board members — both to raise money, and to raise awareness of the foundation’s mission to provide for the needs of Lee College students through scholarships and other types of student support. Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, the foundation will award more than $450,000 in scholarships in this academic year. The 30th annual Foundation Gala held last year raised a record-setting $150,000.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Foundation Gala to be Oct. 1

The Lee College Foundation Board will host its 30th annual Foundation Gala on Thursday, Oct. 1, to raise much-needed funds to support new generations of deserving students.

The gala — a highly anticipated evening of music, food and entertainment that draws hundreds of Lee College friends and supporters each year — will be held at Sylvan Beach Pavilion. The festivities will begin with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by a seated dinner at 7:30 p.m.

This will mark the second year the Foundation Gala has been held at the historic Sylvan Beach Pavilion, which has undergone a complete renovation since its heyday as the home of big-brass bands, the Bathing Girl Revue and the Humble Oil company picnic. Guests will enjoy a silent auction and a live auction led by Baytown Mayor Steve DonCarlos, as well as music from Lee College student ensembles.

“The gala is always unique because we focus on students, their stories and their contributions,” said Roberta Wright, chairwoman of the Foundation Board. “It’s really a showcase for them.”

The first Foundation Gala was held in 1983 at the suggestion of board member George Walmsley — both to raise money, and to raise awareness of the foundation’s mission to provide for the needs of Lee College students through scholarships and other types of support. Under the direction of its board, the foundation has awarded more than $400,000 in scholarships this year alone.

Joy, gratitude at Foundation Scholarship Breakfast

Before she was awarded a scholarship from the Lee College Foundation, Honors Program student and Nigerian immigrant Gift Sampson had to make the difficult choice between paying tuition or taking care of household bills. At her husband’s insistence, the tuition always came first.

Foundation Scholarship Breakfast attendees
Students and donors got acquainted at the 13th annual Lee College Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, Friday, April 10, at the Rundell Hall Conference Center.

“After we paid the tuition, we didn’t have enough money to see us to the end of the month,” Sampson said through tears at the 13th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, held Friday, April 10, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. “But he told me: We are going to make it. … And I worked so hard. I went to the Writing Center every day, to the point where I called and they knew my voice.”

Each year, the foundation breakfast gives scholarship recipients and their donors the opportunity to connect. Students personally thank donors for the tuition or textbook assistance that helped fund their education, while donors see and hear firsthand how their generosity has made a difference.

“I just get amazed by what we have at Lee College and in this community,” Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown said at the breakfast. “In the eyes of the donors, you can see the excitement they have for what they have been able to do: helping us get the students here, keep the students here, and graduate. And in the students, you can see the progress and the growth that they’re making because you believed in them. There simply aren’t enough ‘thank-yous’ we can give.”

Sampson described how she and her husband’s shared faith in her lifelong dream of receiving a college education kept them going despite myriad challenges — from conquering the English language barrier, to overcoming doubts about her own ability to excel academically after coming from a culture where women were valued only for their potential worth as brides and wives.

“When I received the $1,000 scholarship, that was how it all started and that money meant the world to me,” said Sampson, who received the Cindy McNeill Memorial from the foundation. “There is a text in the Bible that says that if you cast your bread upon many waters, that it will come back to you in so many ways. The bread that you cast touched me in another part of the world and now I am here today, because of you. I cannot be more grateful.”

Gift Sampson (scholarship recipient)
Scholarship recipient Gift Sampson (center), along with her husband Garland Blanchard (left), thanked donor Kelly McNeill (right) for her generosity.

For John Allen, a Barbers Hill High School senior taking dual-credit college courses in process technology, receiving the Chevron Phillips Workforce Development Scholarship through the Lee College Foundation opened a world of new possibilities for his future.

“The money for tuition and books has been really helpful to me and my family, but the money is just the beginning,” Allen said at the breakfast, noting how much he has gained from his relationship with Todd Jackson, the Chevron Phillips employee mentor with whom he was paired as a scholarship recipient.

“He took me on a tour of the plant and I was able to see how to apply what I’m learning in class to the real world. You all have motivated me for success.”

The Lee College Foundation is a non-profit entity that raises private funds to help support scholarships and other worthwhile initiatives that directly affect student success, and promote the student’s ability to reach their educational goals. This year, the foundation endowment topped $10 million for the first time in history. For more information about the foundation or the Foundation Board, contact Executive Director Pam Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@leecollegeonline.com.

Lee College handed $50,000 Fluor Foundation grant

Lee College was awarded this month a $50,000 grant from The Fluor Foundation to support industrial training programs, and provide college scholarships to Goose Creek and Barbers Hill students interested in pursuing industrial careers.

Representatives from Fluor Corp. and The Fluor Foundation presented the $50,000 check at the December meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. In addition to scholarships, the grant money will be used to purchase training equipment that enhances hands-on learning in the classroom.

Fluor reached out to Lee College in 2013 to forge a partnership that would address the growing demand for the next generation of skilled workers. Since that time, the company has helped recruit students for industrial training, offered valuable insight about how to improve and update program curricula, and given job opportunities to graduates.

“Fluor has truly proved to be a great industry partner for us,” said Debi Jordan, executive director of the Center for Workforce and Community Development. “They came to the table with not just challenges and problems, but solutions and support. They are very engaged.”

Torrence Robinson, president of The Fluor Foundation and senior director of Global Community Affairs, told the regents that Fluor is dedicated to developing the workforce that industry needs to be successful. Supporting quality educational initiatives is an essential part of that effort, he said.

“We are committed to helping provide the resources that you need to do your job even better, and we look forward to our continued partnership with Lee College,” Robinson said.

Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown and Board of Regents Vice Chairman Ron Haddox thanked Fluor and The Fluor Foundation for their generosity on behalf of the entire campus community.

“I can’t tell you how much this means to us, and more importantly, how much it means for our students,” Brown said.

Students, Donors Connect at Scholarship Breakfast

For Miguel Hernandez, enrolling at Lee College several years ago to earn an associate degree in pipefitting began a series of transformations and promotions that changed his life for the better.

Scholarship Breakfast 2014Now an instructor at the college, Hernandez and his wife, Maria, are also Lee College Foundation scholarship donors with a lofty goal: to give enough money to fill an entire classroom with bright students eager to pursue their dreams.

“It’s been a great satisfaction to see students get the same opportunities that I did,” Hernandez said Friday, April 11, at the 12th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast in the Student Center, imploring the students in the room to seek out a job that would allow them to make an impact on the world.

“Don’t embark on a career for material reasons,” he said. “Find purpose in what you do.”

Each year, the foundation breakfast gives scholarship recipients and their donors the opportunity to connect. Students are able to personally thank their donor for the tuition or textbook assistance that helped pay for their education, while donors hear firsthand how their generosity has made a difference.

After spending much of her life as a wife tending to the needs and schooling of her three children, Debra Long arrived at Lee College full of doubts about her ability to be a successful student – even after she learned she would be awarded a foundation scholarship.

“What began as an experiment became a passion,” Long told the crowd at the scholarship breakfast. “After three semesters, 18 honors hours and four conferences, I am filled with wonder at where I am in my life. I honestly would not be standing here if it wasn’t for you.”

The son of a single mother who worked multiple jobs to support a family of five, Fernando Izaguirre fell into drugs and bad behavior before turning his life around and gaining admission into Angelo State University. Working 40 hours a week to pay for school and make ends meet took precious time away from his studies, however, and he ended his first year with grades too low to continue.

Returning home to Baytown to attend Lee College was one of the best decisions he ever made, Izaguirre said. The foundation scholarship he received took a burden off his shoulders.

“I didn’t have to struggle and worry about how I was going to pay for my education,” he said.

Hearing the stories of the students’ ability to overcome their challenges with the help and generosity of Lee College donors “gives me goose bumps,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown.

“I cannot thank you enough,” Brown said at the end of the foundation breakfast. “What you do with these scholarships means so much.”