MARIETTA, OHIO—When Melissa Sterling received one of the first-ever Washington State Community College (WSCC) Criminal Justice (CJ) Club Scholarship in 2019, she said it validated her decision to pursue a degree in law enforcement. That award inspired her to get involved to ensure others have the opportunity to have the same experience.
When Sterling received her invitation to the annual scholarship reception, hosted by the WSCC Foundation last spring, she knew only that she would be receiving a scholarship, but had no idea which scholarship, or its value. She, along with her three young children, attended the event with trepidation. “I was super excited to get a scholarship, but I was also nervous to accept it in front of a bunch of people,” Sterling confessed.
Her nerves were quickly calmed when, upon her arrival, her benefactor was revealed. “When they handed me my nametag and it said who gave me the scholarship, I was elated,” Sterling recalled. When she saw assistant professor Stephanie Harlow, her advisor, and instructor Brenda Duffy, both were wearing giant smiles and anxiously waiting to congratulate her. “They were like, ‘Surprise!’ and it felt like they believed in me. They believed in me so much that they gave me a scholarship and it reinforced that I am doing the right thing.”
Harlow is among Sterling’s biggest supporters on campus. In fact, she wrote one of her letters of recommendation required by the scholarship application. “She is an adult learner who has small children and she strives to do excellent work,” said Harlow. “She is a caring and hardworking student who has grown into an involved leader in the CJ Club and Program.”
Sterling, who had been out of school for more than a decade before she enrolled at WSCC, said college was always part of her plan. “It took me 14 years to go back to school. That whole time I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. To finally decide after all that life experience that this is what I wanted to do and then to excel in it so far, at least through education, makes me know that I’m doing the right thing for my life.”
The CJ Club Scholarship was established to fund two $500 scholarships for students pursuing a degree in the field of criminal justice. It is supported by the club’s annual golf scramble that relies on the efforts of its members to get business sponsorships and contributions. Sterling, who joined the club last fall, said she gave herself the goal of getting sponsorships that valued at least the equivalent of her scholarship because she wanted to make sure future students had the opportunity to experience what it was like when someone believes in you. She not only met that goal but surpassed.
Earlier this year the Criminal Justice Club contributed $1000 to the WSCC Foundation to fund two more scholarships that will be presented later this spring. “I am so proud of the members of the CJ Club,” said Harlow. “They work hard and support this scholarship fund because they care about their fellow students and they really want to do what they can to help them be successful in this program.”
The CJ Club Golf Scramble has been postponed until later this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, or to become a sponsor, contact Stephanie Harlow at 740.568.1921.