'The greatest gift'
"The scholarship means I can go another year at HCC and focus more on my studying and nursing skills rather than worrying about my financial status. It means I can finish my nursing degree and reach my dream." – Versaviya Okhrimenko
After Doris M. Kemble died in 1990 from cancer, her mother, Abbe, established a scholarship in her memory through the Holyoke Community College Foundation. Kemble had been a beloved member of the HCC nursing faculty, and her mother wanted to make sure her daughter's legacy continued.
Since 1998, more than 60 HCC students have been awarded the Doris M. Kemble Nursing Scholarship. This year, one of them is Versaviya Okhrimenko of Westfield.
"The scholarship means I can go another year at HCC and focus more on my studying and nursing skills rather than worrying about my financial status," said Okhrimenko. "It means I can finish my nursing degree and reach my dream. It is honestly the greatest gift I have ever received."
This spring, the HCC Foundation awarded nearly $210,000 in scholarships to 200 incoming, current and transferring HCC students and will set a record for the number of scholarships it distributes for the 2020-2021 academic year, 233.
Because of COVID-19, students need the money more this year than ever, says Amanda Sbriscia, HCC vice president of Institutional and executive director of the HCC Foundation. The number of applications for scholarships this year increased 22 percent, from 391 to 479.
"HCC students are always remarkable, but they have demonstrated incredible resilience this semester," Sbriscia said. "Many are working, but some have lost their jobs. Still, they are raising children, planning to transfer to four-year schools, changing careers, and blazing a path that for some no one in their family has taken before. When so much of our students' world was unknown as a result of a global pandemic, it was important to ensure they could still count on the HCC Foundation for scholarship opportunities that would inspire them to continue working toward their educational goals."
Over the years, the HCC Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the college, has provided more than $3 million in student scholarships while also investing in classroom equipment and technology for select academic and student support programs.
Typically, the Foundation hosts a scholarship reception in May where scholarship recipients can interact with the donors responsible for their awards. But this year, of course, the reception was cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, students were invited to record personal videos that were sent directly to donors.
"Thinking that someone is trusting me and investing in my career – thank you so much for that," Okhrimenko said in here video. "Through this award, you're helping a plain girl like me to become a nurse and save lives."
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: Xinhong Wu of Amherst (thumbnail) and Alexandra Clark of Hungtington (above) at HCC's Scholarship Reception in May 2019. Both received scholarships again this year from the HCC Foundation.