Burleson Opportunity Fund is a small part of larger solution
The smell of freshly brewed coffee warmed up a chilly Thursday morning as the Burleson Opportunity Fund recipients served breakfast to its sponsors and supporters.
Breakfast of Champions, the annual fundraiser for the opportunity fund, took place Oct. 11 at First United Methodist Church in Burleson.
Mayor Ken Shetter announced at the event that Texas Tech University will now be physically present in the city, which partnered with Hill College’s Burleson campus last year to provide online courses.
Texas Tech University has created a new academic adviser position that will be based on the Burleson campus.
“It means Burleson students without ever leaving town — they can get job training, they can attain skills for a career, they can get an associate’s degree and now they can get a four-year-degree right here in Burleson,” Shetter said. “We look forward to Texas Tech’s presence growing and evolving in exciting ways over the years.”
A total number of 1,138 Burleson students have received scholarships to attend college through the Burleson Opportunity Fund since its inception in 2007.
Thursday’s event allowed attendees to donate and contribute to the fund and continue to support students’ college education.
“We want everyone to have education, we want our children to have an education,” said Ronnie Johnson, board chairman of Burleson Opportunity Fund. “That’s why we are here.”
The fund has generated over $1.5 million in tuition payments for over 10,000 college credit hours the students have completed so far.
Along with Burleson Independent School District, city of Burleson and Hill College, a large number of individual and independent businesses contribute to the fund each year.
KWS Manufacturing Company was one of the key sponsors this year. Company owner Bill Mecke was honored as the Champion of Higher Education at the breakfast.
Mecke’s company is one of the largest conveyor manufacturers in the country. And with more than 150 employees, it is currently the largest industrial employer in Johnson County.
Although employment opportunities have been growing every year, there is a serious lack of skilled workforce to fill all the vacant positions, Mecke said.
According to a Georgetown Public Policy Institute report, by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the U.S. will require some sort of college education.
Mecke said programs like the Burleson Opportunity Fund will help bridge the skills gap.
“I’m a small part of a large solution,” Mecke said. “What we’re trying to do is make Burleson a better place. And, the bottom line is to increase, or improve our quality of life.”
Past scholarship recipients, Colby Smith and Cortni Dale, also spoke at the event, underlying the importance the scholarship played while pursuing their respective college degrees from Hill College.
Smith currently works as an officer in Burleson Police Department, the first ever from Centennial High School. Dale teaches kindergarten at Frazier Elementary after completing her associate and bachelors degree.
“It gave me a new found respect for my community for giving me an opportunity to obtain a college education and to get my career,” Smith said. “Everyday I go to work, I’m driven to work hard to make Burleson a better place and give back to the community that has helped me get where I am.”
About 132 recipients of this year’s scholarships take the two as successful examples. Many of the current students were present Thursday, serving breakfast and adding to the about 9,300 hours of volunteer service the scholarship recipients have conducted over the years.
Kaden Dalton, one of the recipients of Burleson Opportunity Fund scholarship, said his life has completely changed in a positive way because of the scholarship.
“It’s shown me how college is actually something I can achieve,” Dalton, Hill College first-year student, said about the Burleson Opportunity Fund. “It’s given me an opportunity to pursue my dreams.”