“When you give a scholarship to a student, you know that 100 percent of the donation will fund their education,” says Sunny Justice, executive director of The Paige Family Foundation, which supports students at Community College of Denver (CCD).
“Many of our scholarship recipients are first-generation college students,” Justice says. “A college degree can positively influence the future for the student and change the dynamic for their entire family.”
Herbert and Judy Paige established The Paige Family Foundation to support education, senior citizens and shelter animals. Herbert Paige received a football scholarship when he was young, and he realized the opportunities provided by his education.
“Herb and Judy were committed to helping young people who show strong work ethic and drive to obtain a degree,” Justice says. “They believed the basis of all human improvement begins with education.”
Scholarship Helps Student Escape Troubled Past
Ronald Benkelman grew up in a tumultuous home in Wyoming. Though he loved learning, he dropped out of high school, started using methamphetamines and was homeless.
In early adulthood, he became a father, which motivated him to reform. But when his son’s mother left Wyoming with their son, Benkelman lost sight of his purpose and everything fell apart again.
He knew he had to change. He moved to Denver, quit meth, earned his GED and got a job. To complete his transformation, he enrolled at CCD and signed up for science classes.
Near the end of his two years at CCD, Benkelman became overwhelmed by his accumulating debt. He worried he wouldn’t be able to pursue his bachelor’s degree, which he needed to become a teacher.
In an attempt to keep his momentum going, Benkelman applied for scholarships.
To his surprise, The Paige Foundation awarded him a scholarship that would cover half his tuition at CCD and would follow him to University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver).
“I had been contemplating dropping out,” Benkelman says. “Then I received a scholarship from The Paige Family Foundation and it turned everything around.”
Benkelman plans to complete his bachelor’s degree in physics and earn a teaching certificate at CU Denver with the hopes of becoming a high school science teacher.
“The Paige Foundation decided I was worth it,” Benkelman says. “They thought I deserved a chance. Because of that, I knew I could complete college if I just tried.”
Angela Chavez, 27, always knew she wanted to be a dental hygienist. In fourth grade, visiting the orthodontist’s office often, she felt inspired by the people who helped make her braces experience a positive one. After high school, she aimed to attend CCD’s dental hygiene program, moving from Ohio to Denver.
Angela had been working and saving to go to dental hygiene school. In summer 2017, she finally began classes. Looking at her available funds, she discovered that she could live on just $5 a day, including food. If she had to buy gas that week, she had to figure out a way to eat.
“I was pinching pennies,” Angela remembers. That’s when she received a call from CCD’s scholarship office, informing her about The Paige Foundation scholarship, which would pay for half her tuition, freeing her to focus on her grades.
“It was life-changing,” Angela says. “It’s given me an opportunity to go to school and live a little bit. It gives you hope at the end of school that you won’t be buried in debt, or stressed about thinking, ‘What am I going to eat this week?’”
Though Justice didn’t know the Paige family, she embodies their mission of supporting education. She takes a hands-on approach with students, getting to know them through frequent check-ins and keeping an eye on their success.
“It’s pretty incredible to have a job where I get to spend money making the world a better place,” Justice says. “To hear what’s going on with them and see the tangible difference our support is making — it’s more meaningful than just writing a check.”
The Paige Foundation has been offering scholarships to support CCD students since 2014, with a focus on supporting students who have a demonstrated financial need and plan to transfer to a four-year institution to complete their degree.
“We partnered with the Community College of Denver Foundation because we recognize the value of the education CCD provides to our community,” Justice says. “Tuition is affordable, the class sizes are small and the students seem really happy. Attending CCD for two years and then transferring to a four-year school is cost-effective.
“Through our partnership with the CCD Foundation,” she adds, “we are not just another donor. We are actively involved with the students we support.”
In 2017, The Paige Family Foundation donated more than $154,000 to support 83 students from kindergarten through college. It supports non-profit partners in Colorado and California. In 2016, it began fundraising to offer community partners even more support. The Foundation’s current assets total more than $9 million; these assets cover all organizational costs so that 100 percent of new contributions go directly to the causes the Foundation supports.
The Community College of Denver Foundation is a 501(c) (3) public charity focused on developing resources to benefit CCD and its students through partnerships with businesses, foundations, and individuals in the Denver metro area.
Through scholarships to students, program and faculty support, and capital enhancements, the CCD Foundation invests in deserving CCD students — ensuring they have access to a high-quality, relevant education.