Redlands Community College nursing student Christy Rutherford was among the inaugural group to receive the 2018 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar award. This new scholarship is the first of its kind to support students at the associate-degree level who plan to enter the workforce upon graduation rather than transfer to a four-year college. The program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK).
Rutherford was selected for the $1,250 award based on her academic accomplishments, leadership, activities and demonstrating her knowledge beyond the classroom. More than 2,000 students were nominated from more than 1,600 college campuses across the nation. Only one scholar was selected from each state.
When Rutherford found out she won the scholarship, she was attending the All-Oklahoma Academic Team awards at the state capitol. Other awards also were being handed out during the ceremony, but she wasn’t expecting to hear her name being called.
“President Jack Bryant and Dr. Julie Flegal-Smallwood were also there, and they knew I was a top candidate, but were not aware that I was selected. It was a surprise to all of us,” said Rutherford.
Because it is a new award, Rutherford didn’t know many details when she first applied in April. Throughout the application process, she received follow-up emails, to which she responded promptly. She was unaware of her application status and whether she was being considered at all. But in her mind, being persistent was worth the effort.
“As a non-traditional student, school comes out of my pocket. I don’t have student aid options available, so to be part of PTK and have the scholarship opportunities helps relieve some of that financial burden,” said Rutherford.
Rutherford traveled to New York City in October to attend the award ceremony. The scholars were recognized during the Association of Community College Trustees’ Congress, which included lunch and a speaker panel. The event was held at the New York Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.
“President Bryant was adamant that I would be going to the ceremony, so Redlands paid for the trip. It was an amazing experience to be in New York City, receiving this award and hearing a panel of speakers who spoke highly of community colleges and the importance of programs that teach us skills for real life,” said Rutherford.
Because students were required to pay their own way, only 16 out of 46 recipients were present. Rutherford felt extremely humbled and blessed that Redlands sponsored her trip. It’s not something she takes for granted.
“Even though it’s a two-year school, we get top-notch education at Redlands. Our board of regents does so much work behind the scenes to secure our education for us and I am very grateful for their support,” said Rutherford.
Redlands Community College Board of Regents member Janie S. Thompson accompanied Rutherford to New York.
“It was phenomenal to see Christy interact with PTK’s leadership and see how her preparedness compares with other students across the nation,” said Thompson.
Thompson was a Redlands student years ago and has been involved in PTK since its early stages. She has watched the program grow over three decades. She says it is extremely important to note that Redlands is preparing students to excel far beyond the classroom.
“We tend to think of our college as being a small Oklahoma school, not realizing the type of preparations we are doing in our community. Christy winning this award is testimony to the hard work and support Redlands provides in behalf of our students,” said Thompson.
Rutherford has seen first-hand the value of being involved in PTK, not just as a current student but also as a future nurse. She said “if you are extended the offer to join PTK, don’t ignore it.” There are opportunities for scholarships, networking, friendships and leadership skills for all students in all degree programs.
“It is so much more than something that looks good on resume,” said Rutherford.