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BRATTLEBORO — Local student Desyree Ward has received this year’s $2,500 Jesse M. Corum IV Scholarship. The Brattleboro Rotary Club Gateway Foundation scholarship is awarded to a Community College of Vermont student each year to address the shortage of child care workers in Windham County.

The scholarship previously supported students pursuing medical assisting but is now given to those in CCV’s early childhood education program. This shift was in response to Vermont’s need for qualified child care professionals, as identified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CCV offers a child care certificate and early childhood education associate degree program for students pursuing careers in child care. Students develop the foundational knowledge, skills and experience to work effectively with young children. This year, CCV has multiple scholarship and grant opportunities for a debt-free path to completing either of these programs, among others.

Leigh Marthe, coordinator of student advising at CCV-Brattleboro, acknowledged the importance of scholarships and other financial incentives, and noted that these partnerships are a critical connection to support students in the community: “Students in the early childhood education program will fill a vital role for our families, Vermont economic health and for the future workforce. Desyree and her family benefit from reducing debt for higher education, so that they can focus on the work they are doing without the stress of paying back student loans. Early childhood education practitioners deserve our respect and support in the ways that this Rotary scholarship and vision for the future offers. We couldn’t be more excited for Desyree and grateful for this partnership with the Rotary.”

Ward began her work in early childhood education as a family babysitter, then as a substitute teacher at her daughter’s school, where the teachers encouraged her to pursue an education to become a teacher, saying she was “natural at it.”

As a mother of three, Ward credits her children and working with them as the driving force behind her degree. Ward said that receiving this scholarship is an acknowledgement of her hard work and perseverance by the Rotary Club.

“I feel that my story meant something to them,” she said. Ward plans to use this scholarship to pay for school expenses and continue her education with the goal of becoming an early childhood educator.

The Brattleboro Rotary Club Gateway Foundation established the scholarship in September 2014 to honor the late Brattleboro Rotarian Jesse M. Corum IV, who was active in the Rotary Club for 27 years.