People whose dreams were put on hold or lives disrupted for a variety of reasons -- an unexpected pregnancy in one case, a career-ending injury in another, growing up in war-torn Eritrea in a third -- are being given second chances, courtesy of the Columbus Rotary Club.
Last week, the final 11 of the service organization's 2017 collegiate scholarships were given out to 12 nontraditional students.
Several Rotarians said the Phoenix Scholarships, presented at the club's monthly meeting May 22 at the Boathouse Restaurant, are their favorites because of the often-poignant stories behind the applications.
While last after the Service Above Self and Young Hero awards given out to area high school students, the Phoenix Scholarships are "from my perspective, the most significant," said Mike Kehoe, head of the Columbus Rotary's scholarship committee.
The 2017 Phoenix Scholarship program expanded to include two additional recipients as the result of a car raffle the club sponsored, President Jack Graf said.
Out of 25 applications, a dozen recipients were selected, Kehoe said. Ten received awards of $2,500 to continue their education, while two split the amount, receiving $1,250 each.
This year's Phoenix Scholarship recipients and their fields of study are:
* Senay Abraha, who will study biology at Ohio Dominican University
* Mohammed Rifdi, computer science at Ohio State University
* Debra Gall, nursing at Chamberlain College of Nursing
* Leona Innis, nursing administration at Fortis College
* Amber Knapp, nursing at Chamberlain
* Donald Germany, nursing at Mount Carmel College of Nursing
* Tiffany Elrod, nursing at Chamberlain
* Simone Williams, nursing at Mount Carmel
* Cameron McNinch, nursing at Mount Carmel
* Satchel Alvarez, engineering at OSU
* Kelly Carroll, business administration at Franklin University
* Sherry Zwayer, radiologic technology at Fortis.
Carroll and Zwayer are the part-time students who received half the amount given to the other Phoenix Scholarship winners.
In her application, Debra Gall wrote about how she could use a little help in completing her education at Chamberlain College of Nursing.
"As a child growing up, I had always planned to be a nurse," she said.
That dream went away, however, when Gall became pregnant while still in high school.
"That was not part of the plan," the Powell resident, who served as a spokeswoman for the other Phoenix Scholarship recipients, told Rotary Club members.
While she was still able to attend college part time and earned a degree over the course of a decade, Gall said her main focus needed to be on rearing her son. He's now all grown, a college graduate and middle-school teacher with children of his own, so Gall was able to return to her original desire for a career in nursing. She hopes to finish her studies soon and find work as a registered nurse by the end of the year.
"This scholarship is key in helping me attain my goals," Gall said. "I am proud to be a nontraditional student.
"We thank you for investing in us. We will not let you down."