SCOTTSBLUFF — The Panhandle Business and Professional Women awarded scholarships to a diverse group of women on Wednesday.

Rebecca Standage of Alliance, Julia Lopez of Scottsbluff, Leigh Thompson of Mitchell and Melissa Shy Dodge of Oshkosh each received a $1,000 scholarship.

Tara Lovesee of the BPW scholarship committee said the organization is happy to have the ability to provide the four scholarships. To be eligible, applicants were required to be female, 25 or older and a resident of the Nebraska Panhandle or student of a local school. Lovesee said the funding is primarily through the organization’s Java, Jewelry & Jazz event and fundraising through members and businesses in the community.

Each of the non-traditional students has her own story.

“They all have had their own personal challenges presented to them,” Lovesee said. “They’re all doing things to grow and improve for themselves and their families.”

Lopez said she grew up in the Denver area where she had many bad experiences with teachers and other students that she felt were bringing her down. She is now studying health information management at Western Nebraska Community College.

“There were so many battles that I didn’t even know that I’d be able to come back,” she said.

Lopez hopes her sister’s children will see her story as an inspiration that there is no finishing line for education.

For Dodge, who works at the high school and junior high in Oshkosh, returning to school to study special needs education was inspired by her grandfather, who told her that everyone is capable of learning.

“Being able to tap into this support system is really remarkable,” Dodge said. “This scholarship is more helpful than these ladies can even imagine.”

Thompson dropped out of school at 16, but a workplace injury a year ago caused her to need to change fields. While she never thought she was college material, Thompson said the BPW scholarship makes a huge difference knowing that there is support out there.

“It’s a great opportunity to make it possible to continue my education,” she said. The award will help Thompson be able to focus on her studies instead of finances. She is studying human services and drug and alcohol counseling. partly motivated by her own kids’ past involvement with drugs.

Standage is in the LPN program at WNCC-Alliance. She said all of the scholarship recipients are thankful for the support of BPW.

“I’m just honored and gracious about this,” Standage said. “I’m not one to go ask for help very often. I don’t think any of us are.”

The BPW organization and its membership are an additional motivational factor for all four recipients.

“Seeing these ladies together, it’s nice to see that something like this is out there for us,” Standage said.

Lovesee said the organization membership is equally inspired by Standage, Lopez, Thompson and Dodge.

“Each of them has a special gift, special talent and a particular drive, and that shined through for each of them,” Lovesee said.

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