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After 10 years, scholar earns degree

Delaware Tech student Stella Harrison took one class at a time over 10 years to earn her college degree

By Town Square Delaware

Stella Harrison isn’t just the first woman in her family to earn a college degree. She also pursued her degree at the same time her granddaughter enrolled in college — the two overlapped by one semester at DelTech.

Harrison, 57, took the long road toward earning her degree — taking one course per year for the last 10 years. Remarkable for anyone but especially so for the mother, grandmother and full-time employee who saw no other way to balance work, life and her pursuit of a lifelong dream.

“This has really changed my life and the way the future of my family goes. Before I graduated, I had a granddaughter who started college. She saw what her grandmother went through, and I told her it won’t be as hard for her as it was for me. And now she’s seen me graduate! I always encourage and help her along the way, and she’s determined she’s going to get her degree in psychology. So I’m happy about that,” said Harrison.

Harrison, who now works for the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, is one of nine Fresh Start Scholars who earned her degree this year. The Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation makes returning to school possible women like Harrison, who found a spate of recent jobs unfulfilling. 

She spent seven years as a correctional officer, a dozen years as a member of the Delaware National Guard, and held a variety of jobs that she says “you wouldn’t want to do long term.” She had temp jobs in banks, she made car seats for Chrysler, and she did warehousing work. “I did all kinds of work that wasn’t really meaningful for me,” she says.

She says she will never forget the day a co-worker at one of her jobs suggested that Harrison consider going after a college degree by applying for a Fresh Start Scholarship. Her colleague had just earned her college degree and was primed to start a new, better-paying position elsewhere.

“I think of this as just the greatest blessing. I mean they [Fresh Start] pretty much paid for all of it. I put out money for books and different labs and stuff like that. But they paid the bulk of it.”  She says the degree “will definitely help me get promoted.”

This month, the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation would have recognized the nine scholar graduates with a large dinner Rising Stars celebration, which is also the organization’s signature fundraiser.

Due to the Covid pandemic, this year’s Rising Stars elebration was postponed and will be held in October.

But Founder Mary Maloney and members of the Board of Directors felt the nine scholar graduates should receive their well-deserved recognition now. So they are promoting #FreshStart2020Grads campaign, which celebrates their achievements but also honors the perseverance and determination it took to obtain their goals in light of obstacles and unexpected challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Cheers to the following Fresh Start scholar graduates:

Roselyn Bain
Bachelor of Science – Behavioral Science
Wilmington University

Ashley Brown
Bachelor of Science – Behavioral Science
Wilmington University

Genesis Johnson
Bachelor of Science – Behavioral Science
Wilmington University

Kira Johnson
Associate of Arts – Liberal Studies
Wilmington University

Christina Salvato
Associate in Applied Science – Marketing
Delaware Technical Community College

Stella Harrison
Associate in Applied Science –
Human Services
Delaware Technical Community College

Sharon Toohey
Associate in Applied Science – Business
Delaware Technical Community College

Alyssa Raikowski
Bachelor of Arts – Psychology, cum laude
Goldey-Beacom College

Jasmine Torres
Bachelor of Science – Nursing
Wesley College

The organization anticipates awarding over 40 scholarships to deserving Delaware women when they announce the Fresh Start 2020-2021 scholarship recipients later this summer. 

If you know someone seeking to improve their life through a college education, visit www.freshstartscholarship.org to review the eligibility criteria. Proceeds from the October 15 Rising Stars event will benefit scholarships for future Delaware women in financial need.

If you would like to donate to the Fresh Start Scholarship program, click here.

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