Golden LEAF Foundation awards $500,000 in COVID-19 relief scholarships to community college system

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RALEIGH – The Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded $500,000 to the North Carolina Community College System to create a scholarship fund for community college students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The State Board of Community Colleges acted April 17 to approve the expenditure of $500,000 from the Golden LEAF Scholarship COVID-19 Fund, to be distributed during the current academic year.

The Golden LEAF Scholarship COVID-19 Fund will serve community college students who live in eligible rural counties that are tobacco-dependent or economically distressed, demonstrate financial need and have been affected by COVID-19.

The scholarships are available to students now through June. Students may call the Mayland Community College financial aid office at 828-766-1204 to access these funds.

Community colleges moved their instruction to an online format when the pandemic hit, and most face-to-face classes were suspended. The colleges also continue to offer instruction for nurses, respiratory therapists and first responders who are critical to the state's response to COVID-19.

These changes combined with other challenges, such as increasing unemployment, have created financial barriers for many students.

“We are grateful to Golden LEAF for its support of our students during this time of great need,” said Peter Hans, president of the NC Community College System. “Many students have encountered significant financial hardships resulting from the pandemic. The Golden LEAF Scholarship COVID-19 Funds will help students continue their educational journey and succeed in their career goals.”

Each year, the foundation provides funding to support the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program for community colleges. Since 2001, more than 16,000 students from the NC Community College System have received scholarship funds from the program.

“Golden LEAF is proud to help support the development of the talent, knowledge and skills of our rural workforce,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF president and chief executive officer. “We see this investment as critical to the success of our rural communities.”