When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring and local schools started closing their doors, Rebecca DeCarlo was worried sick. A mother of four who lives in Moira, Rebecca was still working full time as a critical care EMT for Canton Rescue, pursuing paramedic certification, and taking a full slate of health sciences classes at North Country Community College’s Tulloch campus in Malone. With her children no longer going to school in person, she didn’t know how she was going to pay for child care, among other expenses.
“That was where I got into some financial hardship,” Rebecca said. “I needed to account for 40 hours a week of child care, and one of my children is profoundly autistic. We can’t just find someone down the street. Our child care is extremely expensive. I had all these new bills for child care, and it kind of put me in a tough spot.”
At the urging of one of her professors, Rebecca applied to the college’s Student Emergency Fund, which was created to help students with one-time financial emergencies that would prevent them from completing their education. The fund got a boost this spring through Adirondack Foundation’s Special + Urgent Needs (SUN) Fund.
Rebecca’s application was approved. “It absolutely helped when I’m paying all this money out for child care,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the assistance.”
Through contributions from the SUN Fund and other sources, the college helped two dozen students with emergency support in April and May.
This isn’t the only way Adirondack Foundation is helping students at North Country, which also has campuses in Saranac Lake and Ticonderoga. This summer, a Generous Acts grant was awarded to help promote the North Country Community College Foundation’s new Opportunity Scholarship. This scholarship, which provides up to $1,000 for full-time students and up to $500 for part-time enrollment, is geared for new, non-traditional-age students who live in Essex or Franklin counties.
“We have definitely seen an uptick in the number of non-traditional students attending this fall and we also saw a spike in the number of past students that have returned to complete their degrees,” said Kyle Johnston, North Country’s vice president for marketing and enrollment. “I’m confident that it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Adirondack Foundation and the creation of the Opportunity Scholarship.”
As a non-traditional student who returned to college after an 18-year hiatus, Rebecca DeCarlo said she appreciates the college and its partners doing all they can do to help students achieve their education and career goals.
“It seemed daunting to me to basically be starting over,” she said. “But I loved it, and I was able to manage it and maintain a 4.0 (GPA). A big part of it is because of the faculty here. Every professor I have, they know you by name and face. There were times when I had a conflict between the paramedic program and my studies here, and they were always extremely flexible with me. I even had some checking on me to see how I was doing when COVID hit. I don’t think that’s very common.”
This fall, Rebecca is enrolled in the college’s practical nursing program. She plans to keep working as a paramedic for the next five years while pursuing an associate degree in nursing and then starting a nurse practitioner program.