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Salmon Foundation scholarships change lives for families 1,000 times over

Not only is Jacki Maxwell the 1,000th student to receive a scholarship from the Doug & Carla Salmon Foundation, she is the very picture of the type of student the supporting organization within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region helps to achieve brighter prospects.

She is a single mom working a job in addition to attending Fox Valley Technical College as a first-generation college student working toward a nursing degree.

“She is kind of the classic Salmon student,” Executive Director Theresa Braatz says.

The students sometimes come from generations of poverty and getting a degree from a technical college can break that cycle, Braatz says. They gain self-esteem and learn self-sufficiency. Their own children grow up valuing education and hard work.

Jacki’s parents both worked in jobs with the state, but she still wanted her two children, ages 8 and 10, to learn those values from her. She wants them to know we all can improve ourselves.

“I was at the point where I had no idea how I was going to pay the rent,” Jacki says. Then she heard she would receive a Salmon scholarship. “It was like the sky opened up and the sun shined down.”

Jacki Maxwell with her children

The scholarship helps not only with tuition, but with the other real-life expenses of being a non-traditional student – books, supplies, housing and food. The Salmon Foundation’s staff of counselors help students navigate through any barriers to their college dream, something many of their families can’t do because they’ve never experienced it themselves.

The cost of uniforms, medical equipment and books all hits in that first semester. Plus, Jacki had to reduce her full-time job at the Wisconsin Resource Center, a secure mental health facility, to 60% to make it work. It’s not easy, she says, but she knows it’s right.

“A stethoscope costs $100,” Jacki says. “I’m 40-years-old. I don’t have someone paying my bills.”

Her children see it. They ask her how her day at school was and applaud when she does well on a test. “It shows they know how important this is,” Jacki says.

She expects to be a registered nurse in 2022, possibly still at the Wisconsin Resource Center.

She is amazed that people like Carla Salmon and her late husband Doug recognize the barriers faced by single moms trying to make things better for their kids and themselves.

“I can’t believe there have been 1,000 people,” she says. “That’s incredible to me.”

Braatz points out that the scholarship almost always helps more than just the recipients. Normally, there’s a family involved, so the 1,000th scholarship may represent 3,000 or 4,000 lives improved.

Cards and letters received by the Doug & Carla Salmon Foundation show that Jacki is not the only one in a thousand so happy about taking part in the scholarship program.

One nursing student sent a card after she learned the amount of her scholarship was being increased. “This means the world to me and words cannot explain how grateful I am. You are helping me on this wonderful experience, which I absolutely love.”

A mother of two teens who is studying to become a registered nurse while working two jobs also wrote of how thankful she is. “I’m working hard to attain my goal so I can be working where I know I need to be,” she says.

Another nursing student and single mom thanked them not only for the scholarship, but for her counselor’s suggestions of social service agencies that might make the path just a bit easier.

“When I graduate, I hope I can use what I have learned here to make a difference in people’s lives, the same way you have made a difference in mine,” she says.

Hers and the lives of 999 others.

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