By Carolyn Preul

Perseverance is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” This steadfast commitment is what Columbia College students bring to the table each and every day. Classes are taught in state-of-the-art college facilities and through virtual classrooms led by faculty across the nation. Scholars may study where they serve their family breakfast in the morning, between shifts or alongside peers at the library. They do what it takes to succeed.

The CCAA recognizes the personal sacrifices and determination it takes to earn a college degree, and each year we are honored to award financial assistance through the CCAA Scholars Program. From more than 90 applications, the selection committee of the CCAA Advisory Board chose nine students to receive a $1,000 scholarship toward the 2020-21 academic year.

Each applicant is asked to describe what their time at Columbia College means to them and/or how they benefit from Columbia College. Here’s what our 2020 scholarship recipients have to say:


Lauren Custer

  • Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
  • Attending: Columbia College-Fort Leonard Wood
  • Major: Criminal Justice

“At 31, I have started college multiple times in my life—once for only a semester and sometimes I wouldn’t even make it that far. I had a severe fear of failure to the point of inducing the failure on my own at the first struggle. I had this distorted thought that I couldn’t fail if I quit first. It took awhile to realize that quitting was the worst form of failure. I thought about going back to college for a couple of years and I looked into so many. The day I walked into Columbia College on Fort Leonard Wood, I felt more at home than any of the previous colleges I attended ever made me feel. They walked me through every thing step by step and before I knew it, I was registered for classes and reassured that I could do this and that I had a new family to back me. That was two years ago, and this time I won’t fail. How do you fail with support like this?”


Sky Fischer

  • New London, Missouri
  • Attending: Columbia College Day Program
  • Major: Education

“Columbia College is one of the best things that has happened to me. I have met my best friends here and I have grown as a person. I have been able to become a member of TRiO, a First-Year Mentor, a Student Ambassador, a Study Abroad Ambassador, TEACH Club President, and maintain a flexible job because of Columbia College. I also have gotten amazing experiences observing in Columbia Public Schools for all of my Education classes. Lastly, I can connect with any one of my professors, and they are always there for help! I am/will be forever grateful for Columbia College!”


Genoveva Gomez-Lince

  • Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • Attending: Columbia College Day Program
  • Major: Psychology

“Columbia College has opened up a world of opportunities. As an international student from Ecuador, I have learned so much about different cultures, as well as being able to proudly share mine. Ever since I got here, I have been looking for leadership opportunities since I love to be involved on campus. I was a resident assistant for a year, I was involved in the student government and I am a part of four student organizations.”


Michael Guthrie

  • Oak Harbor, Washington
  • Attending: Columbia College-NS Everett/Marysville
  • Major: General Studies

“Joining Columbia College changed my life. Before enrolling, I was experiencing my most unsuccessful years. I had recently been discharged from the Navy for being overweight. I had also separated from my wife and kids. Over the course of a few years, I had lost the very things that gave my life meaning. In my time with Columbia, I have found the steps to rebuild my life and myself. My success here is exactly what I need to redefine how I see myself and relocate my self-esteem.”


Lillian Nowack

  • Columbia, Missouri
  • Attending: Columbia College Day Program
  • Major: Biology

“Columbia College has given me so many experiences and skills that I never would’ve developed otherwise. Through being in the Emerging Leaders Institute, becoming a First Year Mentor, and just getting to know everyone on campus I have become a better student, leader, peer, and friend. I came into college nervous and apprehensive, and I have grown into a confident and knowledgeable person. Columbia College has made me into the person who I am now, and I am forever thankful.”


Derek Roberts

  • Hazelwood, Missouri
  • Attending: Columbia College-St. Louis
  • Major: Accounting

“Columbia College has given me hope and determination to finish my higher education. School has always been priority for me. I came to Columbia College shortly after my father passed away. With learning how to deal with this new reality of my father not being here, Columbia College allowed me to find the balance I needed in life to be successful. While being at Columbia College I have made the dean’s list, and this past year I became a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honors Society. I am grateful for the support of Columbia College.”


Kyle Rolfes

  • Kirkwood, Missouri
  • Attending: Columbia College Day Program
  • Major: Business Administration, Accounting and Finance

“Life-changing, to put it simply. Not only has Columbia College set me up to succeed in my career, but it has set me up with the skills I will use to succeed at life. CC has provided me with leadership and communication skills which I have used to help better my school community. CC has also provided me with a family away from home. Being the first sibling in my family going to college, I could not have been happier to go to a college that welcomed me with warm open arms and embraced me for who I was as a person. CC has given me a fresh start in how I can shape my life and, to say the least, Columbia College has been life-changing. Thank you CC for everything you have given me and I hope to use those skills and experiences to give back to your community.”


Ashley Sanders

  • Seymour, Missouri
  • Attending: Columbia College-Springfield
  • Major: Human Resource Management

“My time at Columbia College means success to me because I am so close to graduating with my bachelor’s degree. As a single mother working two jobs, Columbia College has helped me by allowing me to take six courses a semester while juggling life, work and school. I feel accomplished after every semester because that means I am that much closer to accomplishing my goal. The amazing staff and instructors are so nice and understanding. They know exactly how hard you have to work to accomplish your goals, and they are with you the whole way.”


Alyssa Smith

  • Columbia, Missouri
  • Attending: Columbia College Day Program
  • Major: Nursing

“I came to Columbia College as a transfer student and from a BIG college campus. It was not until I attended Columbia College that I felt accountable for my education and was amongst teachers who really care. I have made the dean’s list and excelled in my academics. I love Columbia College and all that it stands for. The small classrooms make learning easier, and seeing the same faces make it like attending school with family. Being that I am a single mother of two, it is hard at times balancing school and work. Since attending Columbia College I feel that I have been able to actually accomplish being a student and a mother—and not neglecting one obligation over the other.”

Alumni and friends of Columbia College have the ability to turn the dream of a quality education into reality. Click here to support the CCAA Scholars Program.