Making dreams a reality: $200K gift to MSC Southeast will support WALC graduates

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This release is from MSC Southeast.

Minnesota State College Southeast Foundation announced in March the establishment of a $200,000 fund designated to provide specialized support for Winona Area Learning Center graduates. 

This exceptional gift has been made by the Jerry & Patricia Papenfuss Family Fund of the Winona Community Foundation.

Jerry and Pat Papenfuss, long-time supporters of Minnesota State College Southeast, expressed a desire to provide opportunities for students who might not otherwise see themselves as college-bound. At MSC Southeast, participating students will be able to train in career and technical programs that will ensure a living wage and brighter future.

“The college is humbled by this most generous gift. This gift reflects Jerry and Pat’s deep commitment to the community, their belief in the value of career and technical education as a way to prepare learners for a productive life, and their desire to help those who are most in need of having someone believe and invest in them,” stated Larry Lundblad, MSC Southeast Interim President.

Launching in Fall 2021, the Papenfuss Scholars Program will initially support five Winona ALC graduates by meeting all of their college expenses at MSC Southeast for up to two years. Funds will be awarded as “last-dollar” scholarships, meaning that after federal and state grants and any other scholarships are applied, the program will cover the remainder of tuition and fees.

“Not only will tuition, books, and fees be covered, but each student will receive a modest stipend to help with living expenses,” said Josiah Litant, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “None of these students will have to pay for college out of pocket or leave with any sort of student loans; this is pivotal to helping ensure that these students have a debt-free start after graduation.”

“This gift is providing an incredible opportunity for our students. Our students know how much the staff at the Winona Area Learning Center care about and support them, but knowing they are recognized and supported by community members means so much to all of us — the students and staff,” said Emily Cassellius, Principal, Winona Area Learning Center. “The entire staff at the WALC is grateful for this gift and the opportunities it will open up for our students.”

The Papenfuss Scholars Program will also fund the creation of a designated staff position at the college to serve as a student success advisor. 

“There can be many barriers to success besides financial. Navigating the college experience can be a challenge in itself, and issues on the home front can interfere with making progress in school,” said Josiah Litant. “By having a person on staff who is dedicated to supporting these students, we will be able to help them all the way through, from enrollment to graduation.”

In addition to providing a stipend, the Papenfuss Scholars Program will also offer emergency grants for students who find themselves in exceptionally difficult circumstances, such as the sudden loss of a job or car. 

“Jerry and Pat have shown a passion for supporting these students and helping them overcome every barrier to success,” Larry Lundblad said. “They have enormous faith in the students’ potential, and in the possibility that getting a diploma or degree can change lives for the better.”

Winona Area Learning Center students who will graduate this spring are eligible to apply for the Papenfuss Scholars Program. Five students will be selected to start in Fall Semester 2021.

Emily Cassellius said, “It’s exciting to know that we can have focused conversations with our students about what attending Minnesota State College Southeast can do to help set them up for successful futures and how this gift will help them make their dreams a reality.”

“This is the beginning of an exciting new initiative,” said Josiah Litant. “We are delighted to have these students join us at MSC Southeast this fall as a part of our academic community.”