Thyroid cancer encouraged Jaren Kolzer to realize a dream. A dream of finishing her college education.
“It made me very, very determined,” Kolzer said in a video done by the Web site Fullerton Stories. “Especially with my son watching me.”
Kolzer was one of five women awarded college scholarships Saturday afternoon at the annual meeting of the YWCA of North Orange County, held at Fullerton Marriott at California State University. The women were each awarded scholarship money from the Thurmond Scholarship for Women, which was began by the Thurmond family as a way to help women go back to college later in life. Don Thurmond and Carole Thurmond-Willis presented the scholarships on behalf of their now deceased parents.
“I’m just thrilled that my parents money can make a contribution,” Thurmond-Willis said. “We see how much [the scholarships] can change their lives.”
Kolzer, who has been cancer free for six months, said that going back to college shows her son Madison, 12, in a practical way that education matters.
“I feel that I’m not just preaching to my son,” she said. “But I’m showing him the right path to take.”
Kolzer is currently a Child Development major at Cal State Fullerton and would like to earn a Master’s degree along with a teaching credential.
Alondra Hucks-Willingham was also awarded a scholarship at the luncheon, which she hopes will help her be able to reject part of her student loans when she begins classes at Cal State Fullerton in the fall.
“I hope that this is going to carry me over,” she said.
Hucks-Willingham said during an interview also done by the Web site Fullerton Stories that her husband and sons were at first hesitant of her desire to go back to school, because they thought that she just needed to get a job and help support her family. After she found it difficult to get a decent job without a college education, she enrolled at Fullerton College with her family’s full blessing and support. She recently graduated from Fullerton College and will start at Cal State Fullerton in the fall as a junior.
Her 15-year-old son, who will also be a junior-but in high school-in the fall, wants to compete with her for the best grade-point average. The loser, she says, will clean the kitchen for a week.
Diane Masseth-Jones, Executive Director of YWCA North Orange County, spoke at the meeting of being the first woman in her family to graduate from college and was encouraging the women to “Own It,” the theme of the meeting.
“Take what you think, feel and believe and own it with your passion,” she said.