Pictured, from left: Daniel Perry, representing Brookfield Renewable US, Kalie Brunton, CGCC, James Pytel, CGCC, Jarett Gilbert, CGCC

Columbia Gorge Community College Foundation recently hosted its annual Scholarship Luncheon, held to honor the individual, corporate, and institutional donors who support the Foundation’s mission to ensure access to the tools and resources needed by our students to find success in school and in life. For the 2023-24 academic year, the Foundation awarded $200,000 in student scholarships. The event, held at the college’s Regional Skills Center, began with a tour of the Advanced Manufacturing and Construction Technology workspaces, hosted by instructors Robert Wells-Clark and Glenn Wood. Wells-Clark shared his thoughts with the audience of about 50 donors:  "We have built a learning environment that gives our students real-world experiences, so that when they graduate they are ready to become active and productive members of our community. Your donations to the Foundation Scholarship fund are critical to help our students pay for their education without incurring a lot of debt." One of the students featured at the event added "If it wasn’t for the Foundation Scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the opportunities offered at CGCC."

After the tour, College President Dr. Kenneth Lawson welcomed guests and shared his vision for the college, which include strengthening relationships with regional economic development partners and connecting students and industry to create mutually beneficial opportunities.
Dr. Lawson also discussed his plans to operationalize the college’s Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status, and deepen the college’s commitment to historically marginalized students. 

Foundation Executive Director Sue Davis then shared her experience with this year’s scholarship application process. “Our applicants are managing layer upon layer of commitments — commitments to children, members of their extended family, current employers, faith communities and more. In order to progress they have to face all sorts of challenges and hold fast to the commitment they’ve made to themselves and the futures they envision. Everyone here, and so many more, are critical to helping students reach their career and education goals.” 

Scholarships empower students to stay enrolled and on track to completion, whether in one of the college’s certificate programs or toward earning an AAS degree. Research indicates that the longer it takes to complete a degree, the more likely it is that the student will incur debt. While a CGCC degree provides an immediate return on investment in the form of an average $7,000 bump in annual earnings, student debt dampens that impact. The Foundation’s goal is to fully fund scholarships for all qualified applicants.

Longtime donor and college booster Juanita Neitling shared her adult learning journey with the college, ranging from basic computer programming, to learning Spanish to help her prepare for an extended family vacation. To date, Mrs. Neitling has earned more than 95 credits, and the David and Juanita Neitling Scholarship she created with her beloved husband has supported CGCC students for more than a decade. After Mrs. Neitling’s inspiring story, Daniel Perry, a representative from Brookfield Renewable US, announced his firm’s continued support of the college’s ElectroMechanical Technology program by pledging $25,000 to support student scholarships and program development.

The Foundation extends its heartfelt thanks to all its supporters, and a special recognition to event underwriters C.H. Urness Motors Company, Rivermark Community Credit Union, and Ship Interior Systems. The continued support of donors across the community and the US is what drives progress toward the college mission of building dreams, transforming lives. The college could not do it without them.

For more information about the CGCC Foundation or to explore opportunities to support our cause, please contact Director of Advancement Sue Davis, sdavis@cgcc.edu 509.637.5597