Scholarship Recipient

Wed Apr 26, 2017 at 06:37 PM

Loretta Wenger

For the second straight year, a Blue Ridge Community College student has received a national scholarship from the American Association of Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC). Loretta Wenger was awarded a $500 scholarship by the AAWCC, which is “an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges, and a leading national organization that mentors women and encourages them to reach their full potential,” according to a news release.

Scholarship recipients were selected based on their noteworthy academic accomplishments, civic engagement, and contributions made in support of women’s issues at their respective community colleges.

During much of her life, Loretta didn’t even consider pursuing higher education. She grew up in an Old Order Mennonite household where formal education ended at eighth grade. “I was just at home, learning to be a good homemaker and picking up odd jobs in the community to support myself,” she says.

Later, when she tried looking for other work with better pay and more stability, Loretta soon realized that an eighth grade education wasn’t going to get her “anything”. She went back to school and received her GED at age 24. It was then she began to think about “what if.”

“I started to process ‘what if’ I went to college? Could I really do that? And what do I want to do as a career?” she thought.

Hoping to avoid going into debt for school, Loretta settled in at BRCC in the fall of 2015, where she began to thrive. Her academic skills are excellent; she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges. After talking with academic advisors and faculty members, several careers in medical fields started to look promising.

“I’m exploring the ultrasound technology program at Tidewater Community College,” says Loretta. “Or I may stay here and enter the nursing program.”

She recently had the opportunity to attend the PTK international convention in Nashville, where several thousand exuberant attendees heard from excellent motivational speakers and participated in educational forums.

“It was overwhelming…in a good way!” says Loretta. “It was almost like a concert atmosphere at times.”

One message, from Platon, an internationally renowned photographer, resonated with Loretta. He talked about a portrait session with former president Bill Clinton, when he followed the rules that were given to him for the photos to a certain point, but then listened to his own instincts to capture a different perspective, and that became the magazine cover shot.

“He told us all to take risks,” says Loretta. “And to believe in yourself. I think of coming here as the risk I took believing in myself and it is paying off.”