When Connie Duncan retired
from Lincoln Public Schools as a special education teacher, she didn’t waste
much time before diving head first into her next role as a success coach for
the Learn to Dream Scholarship program at Southeast Community College.
“I just said to my husband
how we needed something for LPS students, when the newspaper had an article
about the Learn to Dream program,” she recalled.
administrators at LPS and expressed her willingness to be involved in the newly
created scholarship. Not long afterward, she was the only employee in Learn to
Dream in 2007. During the next three years, she spent time with counselors at
Lincoln high schools, getting names and recruiting students. Once they came to
SCC, she helped them adjust to their new role as a college student.
She remembers one time setting
up a booth at Lincoln Southeast High School, and a mother had tears in her eyes
when she found out about the Learn to Dream Scholarship because she never
thought it was possible for her son to go to college.
“The most rewarding part for
me was seeing the students and how the LTD program changed the whole life
trajectory for these kids,” Duncan said.
When Duncan became a member
of the Lincoln Board of Education, she left SCC and her duties with the
scholarship to focus her energies on her new role. However, she never stopped
thinking of the program and the students she helped along the way.
“I miss the students. I miss
helping them solve life’s problems,” she reflected.
Former SCC President Dr. Jack
Huck was instrumental in establishing the scholarship, along with Union Bank
& Trust and Nelnet. They wanted to make it possible for high school students
who did not have the financial means to attend college, or never thought it was
possible to enroll at SCC and start the higher education process.
“Leaders of Union Bank and
Nelnet said they would be interested in establishing a support system that would
have a significant impact on students,” Huck recalled. “They wanted all high school
graduates in Lincoln to have the opportunity to attend college at SCC.”
During the first year of
Learn to Dream, 212 students were awarded scholarships. Now, the number easily
doubles that, with a high of 573 students during the 2015-2016 year.
“As we track the success of
these students, it’s amazing to me how committed and focused they are,” he
said. “They are succeeding at higher levels at our institution.”
Huck said there are many
highlights in his 39-year career at Southeast Community College, but the Learn
to Dream scholarship tops the list.
“When I think about impacting
the lives of students, this scholarship program is right at the top of the
heap. It’s one of the bright spots of my career.”
Every year in the spring, a
recognition ceremony is held for the LTD students. Huck said he enjoys meeting
the students and learning more about them through their families that also
“Some of my best memories are
talking with them and meeting their families and to learn from mom and dad
about the difference this opportunity has made in the student’s life,” he said.
As far as the future of the
scholarship, Huck said now that they’ve had a chance to observe it in its
formative years, they’ve talked about the possibility of finding more
benefactors to cover the entire time it takes to get a degree at SCC.
“It’s something I try and
pitch a little bit and maybe build on that success,” he said.
The Learn to Dream
scholarship will hold its 10-year spring recognition ceremony in May.