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COVID-19 Relief Grants Help Students Stay on Track

Press Release                                                                                                                                                                          
Date:
October 26, 2021
Contact:
lgarrett@tctc.edu

By Lisa Garrett

PENDLETON, SC - - Kelsei Washington managed to successfully juggle a tough schedule last year, despite the overwhelming uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.  

She was a full-time student and single parent of two children, and worked a full-time job as a property manager for three complexes. “It was challenging, but I made it through the first few months of the pandemic, financially and academically. Then suddenly I was laid off in August of 2020,” said Washington.

She maintained a 50-mile commute to the Pendleton Campus, taking online Administrative Office Technology (AOT) classes when possible and searched for another job to support herself and her children.

“I had rent to pay, gas for traveling to campus, and child care for two children, ages 2 and 7.  I worried about getting behind with my bills,” she said.

In spring of 2021 she received a letter telling her she was eligible for Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) that Tri-County and other colleges and universities received to provide grants to students for expenses related to disruptions to their education due to COVID-19, including things like tuition, fees, course materials and technology, as well as food, housing, health care and child care.

TCTC awarded more than $2.1 million in HEERF I funds authorized by the CARES Act and nearly $3 million in HEERF II funds authorized by the CRRSSA Act to eligible students during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Tri-County also will award more than $7.1 million in grant funding to eligible students during the 2021-2022 academic year. These funds are part of the HEERF III authorized by the American Rescue Plan to serve students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID relief grants couldn’t have come at a better time,” Washington said.  She received funds in spring and summer of 2021, which helped her to cross the finish line and graduate with an Administrative Office Technology (with a medical emphasis) degree in August. 

Months after being laid off, she was able to secure another full-time job as a third-shift dispatch specialist for Benore Logistics in Greer. “I worked a swing shift of two nights on, three off, then three nights on and off.”  She continued to take a full academic course load (five classes) during the day (mostly online).

“I’m so grateful for the financial assistance in spring and summer,” she said. “I’ve met so many kind people, like AOT instructor Beverly Vickery, who understood the many challenges I endured this semester.”

She was especially grateful for the emergency grant funding she received in the summer. One month before graduation, in July, Washington suffered a life-threatening miscarriage and was hospitalized.  She also was battling other issues in her personal life.

“Mrs. Vickery worked with me to make up my work so I could stay on track.  I was determined to graduate.  I didn’t come this far to lose out on my degree,” she said.

“Walking across the stage to receive my diploma meant everything.  This has been a lifetime dream of mine,” Washington said.  She began college at age 19 but was unsure of her career goals and dropped out.  She took a break from academics and enrolled at Tri-County in the fall of 2019.

“I took a different path, but I accomplished my goal. I’m grateful to have my health back and so appreciative of folks like Mrs. Vickery and Croslena Johnson, (TCTC director of student development). They are two amazing women who believed in me and my success.”  

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About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.