MARIETTA, OHIO—Reminiscing on her time as a student at Washington State Community College (WSCC), alumna Sondra Holbert counts Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and scholarship support as hallmarks of her academic success. She found their importance so valuable that she maintained her connection to the institution to ensure others could enjoy their benefits.
“When I enrolled at WSCC, I had no idea how my life would change,” Holbert recalled. “I had a fear of public speaking and low self-esteem.” The non-traditional Business Management major started her journey as a part-time student with trepidations that she could successfully juggle a full-time job and coursework, but said “the environment at WSCC and the encouraging instructors made it easy to succeed.”
Holbert’s aptitude received recognition when she was invited to join Alpha Rho Gamma, WSCC’s PTK chapter. PTK is the national honor society for two-year colleges and requires a 3.5 GPA for membership. “Being a member of Phi Theta Kappa changed my life,” acknowledged Holbert. “It not only recognized my academic achievement, but provided me with leadership opportunities on and off campus and participation in over 30 service projects in both my community and internationally.”
The value of her PTK induction increased exponentially when her financial circumstances changed after her husband was laid off from his job. When she initially enrolled in college, she wasn’t eligible for financial aid and was paying for her education out of her own pocket, however, the change in her situation left her in a panic. “I didn’t know where I was going to get the money to continue my journey,” she explained. She sought guidance from her PTK chapter advisor who encouraged her to apply for scholarships. She was relieved to discover, “Not only could I apply for WSCC scholarships, there were scholarships available just for Phi Theta Kappa members.”
With the support and encouragement of some of her instructors, Holbert was awarded more than $30,000 in scholarships that she used to help fund not only her associate degree, but a bachelor’s degree as well. “They helped me to overcome my self-imposed limitations. Without their dedication, I would not have succeeded in my education journey,” she confessed.
Lifetime membership is among of the benefits of PTK. Today, she serves in a vital support role to the chapter. “One of the reasons our chapter has been so successful and has been a Five Star Chapter for the past 10 years is because of her help,” credits PTK adviser Brad Merritt. From conducting officer training, to aiding with fundraising and traveling to conferences to support members, Holbert is an essential part of Alpha Rho Gamma’s success. “She is an important part of the team. She has been a very valuable resource for the chapter and for Washington State Community College. She is very dedicated,” confirmed Merritt.
In 2017, for dedication to the chapter, the Alpha Rho Gamma scholarship was renamed to honor Holbert, along with another life-long supporter, Roy Campbell. The scholarship is now called the Holbert – Campbell Scholarship and is awarded to an eligible member to help defray academic expenses.
The following year, to honor the opportunities and experiences she was afforded through PTK, Holbert established The Sondra L. Holbert Phi Theta Kappa Travel Fund, to support expenses associated with travel to regional and national PTK events.
Holbert’s connection to the college that brought her out of her shell runs much deeper than her service and support of PTK. In the 15 years since her graduation, she has served on the WSCC Foundation Board of Directors from 2011 to 2017, where she was ultimately named an honorary member by the Board. Moreover, she is a long-standing volunteer member of the Foundation’s Scholarship Selection Committee, which is responsible for reviewing scholarship applications and selecting awardees.
Ultimately, while her connections are many, her reason for all that she does with WSCC is singular. She wants to perpetuate the opportunities she was given to future students.
“I want to pay it forward to the next generation of students. I want to change their lives. I want them to know they can overcome their fears and succeed just as I did. They can apply for scholarships and pay for college just as I did. They can make lifelong friends just as I did. I want to serve as a mentor and a role model and you just can’t do that effectively without staying connected to WSCC and Phi Theta Kappa.”