Marisa Lee Calnan, Dawson Sessler and Leland
Smith all knew early in their lives what careers they wanted to pursue. They’ve
dreamt big since they were old enough to play doctor, swing a hammer or tinker
with a computer.
Now those dreams are becoming a reality thanks
to the Learn to Dream Scholarship at Southeast Community College.
Calnan is a senior at Lincoln Northeast High
School and has attended The Career Academy (TCA), a joint venture between SCC
and Lincoln Public Schools, for two years. She has chosen the Certified Nursing
Assistant/Nursing pathway - a continuation of her longtime interest in the
medical field. Calnan’s mother worked as a CNA.
“I want to be a doctor, specifically
pathology. My mom helped me get started as far as being interested in this
field. She’s always been really supportive - but I kind of want to one-up her,”
she said with a laugh.
Calnan has received the Learn to Dream
Scholarship both her junior and senior years. Without it, she said, she
probably would not be able to afford to pay for the college credits she earns
through TCA, even though they are offered at a discounted rate.
“One thing that scared me when I first heard
about The Career Academy was that I knew it might cost money and my family has
never been well off. I had my first job but I didn’t think I would be able to
make enough to pay for the college credits I could earn,” she said.
Calnan said her “mind was blown” when she
learned about the Learn to Dream Scholarship. She thanks the sponsors and
everyone who makes the scholarship possible.
“I think that those people are awesome and
that they should keep doing what they’re doing. It’s a really wonderful thing
that children my age are getting these opportunities.”
Sessler is a senior at Lincoln Southeast High
School and has attended TCA since the beginning of his junior year. He’s in the
Precision Machining pathway - a natural fit for someone who has always loved
working with his hands.
“Growing up, ever since I was five years old,
I was always building something with my dad, who worked in construction,”
Sessler said. “When he was working on a project, I would help. I’ve always been
He’ll graduate high school this spring with a
head start on college credit. He’ll continue his education next year at SCC and
plans to graduate and start his career in manufacturing by age 20 - “I can’t
wait to get started.”
It’s a start on life that may have been
stopped short if not for the Learn to Dream Scholarship. Last year his mother
was diagnosed with cancer, which affected the family’s ability to pay for the
dual credit portion of his schoolwork.
But then he was told he qualified for the
“It really helped me and it really does help a
lot of people,” Sessler said. “If no one got that scholarship it would be a lot
harder for people to get a better education and get a better life.”
Smith is a senior at Lincoln East High School and
enrolled in the Info Tech Programming pathway at TCA. The Learn to Dream
Scholarship has made it possible for him to pursue an education and eventually
a career in computers - a lifelong passion.
“Quite honestly, Learn to Dream has made it
possible for me to remain in attendance,” he said.
Smith will attend the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln next year and major in software engineering. After that, he
plans to pursue a career either in that field or development operations, which
combines networking and programming.
This is the second year Smith has received the
Learn to Dream Scholarship.
“I can’t thank the sponsors enough. I’ve
always loved computers but this gave me an opportunity that otherwise I
wouldn’t have had,” he said. “I’m more thankful for and better prepared for
college because of this.”
by Jason Keese/LPS Communications Specialist