The 2017 (and third) award recipient of the Helen Hamilton Scholarship is Ms. Amanda Loiselle. Amanda, who is the first person from her family to attend college, lives in Chester, MA with her parents. She currently attends Holyoke Community College (HCC) and expects to receive her Associate’s Degree in Human Services next May. HCC was not Plan A for Amanda as she graduated from Gateway Regional High School in 2009 and was accepted to attend Westfield State University which she did in the fall of 2009. Amanda loved Westfield State and loved learning, majoring in Art with a concentration in Fine Arts while there. However, she didn’t have a lot of money and struggled to make ends meet for the four plus years she attended classes there, all the while working odd jobs and securing educational loans, so that she could afford the tuition and fees needed to attend.
During her time at WSU, the growing college debt plus the stress of working while in college led to mounting financial insecurity which caused a crisis in confidence in her post Bachelor’s Degree goal to attend graduate school at Springfield College in Art Therapy. When her car broke down for good during her senior year she could no longer be viewed as reliable by her employers which hampered her income even more. Living in a small rural town poses its own special challenges not the least of which is the need for reliable transportation. She had already amassed almost 30K in debt and was now in need of a replacement vehicle. If she continued to follow her original educational plan, she thought, would just place her thousands of dollars more in debt. She made the decision – which was right for her at the time – to leave WSU before graduation – so that she could concentrate on handling her day to day finances.
She regrouped and got a full time job at Home Depot and took a break from school for three years but, all the while, wanting to continue her education so eventually she enrolled at Holyoke Community College where she is now on track to receive both an Associate’s Degree in Human Services and a Developmental Disabilities Direct Support Certificate in May, 2018. She will then return to Westfield State to complete her Bachelor’s Degree, which, given the credit they should accept from HCC, will amount to about 20 more credits needed. She still wants to attend graduate school at Springfield College and become an Art Therapist. “I have found creating art to be therapeutic in my own life. If I don’t pursue Art Therapy then I’d like to go into the education field as a teacher or guidance counselor. I would not be where I am today without the support I received from teachers/professors I had in the past”.
Amanda enjoys working with both children and the elderly and currently works as a personal care attendant for an older woman living in her community. She had performed volunteer work at Bethlehem House, Samaritan Inn, and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke. She has also performed community service learning while at HCC with the Brien center.
“Upon receiving my letter from the Community Foundation stating I was the recipient of the Helen Hamilton Scholarship, I cried. I feel beyond blessed that I was chosen for this assistance. I have been on edge since the beginning of the year worrying about how I will pay for books and everything else needed for the fall 2017 semester. Having attended WSU for nine semesters before going to HCC, I am no longer eligible for many of the grants I received in previous years. Knowing that this scholarship will be going towards some of next semester’s expenses is a huge weight off my back. I am truly grateful”.