It was 1957 when the Florida Legislature awarded a charter to (then) Manatee Junior College. From the first 502 students who met in borrowed space, Manatee Community College has grown to 9,000-plus credit students taking classes in Bradenton and Venice, the Center for Innovation and Technology at Lakewood Ranch and online.
I graduated from MCC in 1967, and I know that without my community college experience I wouldn't have taken the big step of leaving my parents' home in Bradenton for a four-year university. The two years I spent at MCC enriched and influenced my life in so many wonderful ways and gave me a strong foundation to go on and complete my degree at Florida State.
MCC recently held the first event to celebrate its 50th anniversary in its beautiful Center for Innovation and Technology, where Dr. Sarah Pappas, MCC's fourth president, announced plans for both public and private celebrations right up until September 2007.
This past summer, when Ted Nipper and Bill Mullis, owners of Employee Leasing Solutions in Bradenton, and I first learned about the college's anniversary, we started to think about what our graduating class could do to mark the occasion in a big way. That's when we heard about action the Florida Legislature was proposing -- a scholarship program for students who are the first in their families to attend college. Talking with our classmates, Pam Akins Taylor and Bob and Bobbie Coleman, we realized that most of us were the first in our families to attend college.
Since its founding, MCC has attracted large numbers of first generation in college students, and my friends and I know that the challenges facing these students are many. Even planning for college is more difficult when you don't have assistance from a knowledgeable family member.
The six of us formed a steering committee and started contacting many of our lifelong friends from Manatee High School and MCC to enlist their support. Together we committed to raising money for MCC to use as scholarships for students who are the first in their families to attend college.
We can't think of a better way -- or a better time --to say thank you to the college that gave so many of us our start and also to provide this financial assistance for students. Our goal is to present President Pappas with a check for $50,000 at the Jan. 27 Golden Anniversary Gala.
The details have yet to be worked out, but it looks like the "MCC Students of the '60s Scholarship Fund," combined with matching funds from the state, will be used to fund scholarships for at least 50 students.
As Florida's business and community leaders, we need to do all we can to open the doors of opportunity for students who are the first in their families to attend college. I encourage you to consider making a contribution to the First Generation Matching Grant Program -- through the foundation at MCC or any of Florida's other public colleges and universities.
The First Generation Matching Grant Program (FGMG) is a needbased program that provides financial aid to Florida undergraduate residents who demonstrate financial need and whose parents have not earned a baccalaureate degree. More information is available from the Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Assistance. Information about MCC's 50th anniversary celebration events is available online at www.mccfl.edu/50.