by Annie Zaleski, for Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation
When Jordan Allen-Dansby was 12 years old, he suffered a tragic loss: His father, 1st Lt. Dustin Shumney, was killed in action while serving in Iraq.
As the oldest child in his family, Allen-Dansby became a role model for his younger siblings and also took to heart his father’s assertion that a life lived for others is a life worth living.
In fact, Allen-Dansby decided to pursue his dream career — working as an emergency medical technician for the Austin Fire Department Cadet Academy — because he felt taking care of patients and making a difference in his community best honored his father’s heroism.
Today, Allen-Dansby is well on his way to achieving this goal. He’s a junior pursuing his EMT certification at Austin Community College.
As his education progresses, he’s supported along the way financially thanks to a Career and Technical Education Scholarship from the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.
“With these certifications it is my hope to be hired on as a fireman,” Allen-Dansby said. “I would not have been able to attend this program without the generous help of the Foundation.”
Besides providing a much-needed financial cushion, the Career and Technical Education Scholarships — which fund students pursuing a nondegree certificate program, plus vocational training at a community college or a select private career school — are helping close an ever-widening skills gap in America.
In July 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor reported there were 7.3 million open positions, but only 5.7 million people hired. These statistics, which have declined since hitting all-time highs in late 2018, indicate that there are not enough qualified workers to fill certain vacancies.
How do CTE scholarships help close the U.S. skills gap?
While these unfilled jobs span the entire continuum of industries, most also don’t require a bachelor’s degree — meaning that students who decide to pursue certificates or vocational training are in high demand when entering the workforce.
Certificate programs offer students many diverse career paths. According to the Scholarship Foundation, 30% of their Career and Technical Education Scholarship recipients major in a health science-related field, while 19% are studying agriculture, food and natural resources.
Other students, however, are focusing on architecture and construction; business, management and administration; or STEM-related fields, including engineering and information technology.
“There’s a lot of versatility and opportunity for students pursuing career and technical education,” said Jeanna Adams, Director of Scholarship Programs at the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.
“It’s different from a traditional bachelor’s degree program. When students complete they’re program they’re immediately ready for their career and the workforce.”
Plus, this range of alternate career and educational paths is “providing a more skilled and diverse workforce in America,” she added.
Which students are eligible for CTE scholarships?
Students are eligible for the Career and Technical Education Scholarships if they have: a minimum GPA of 2.0, attend an accredited school and have financial need.
They must also be a child of a veteran, retired, reserve or active-duty U.S. Marine, or — like Allen-Dansby — have a parent who was killed while serving in the Marines. Children of U.S. Navy Corpsmen linked with Marine units are also eligible to apply.
Because of this background, scholarship recipients are often coming at post-secondary education from a special perspective, Adams said.
Many recipients have faced the unique challenges of growing up in a military family, like moving from place to place or handling the stress of having a parent deployed.
“A lot of the students that we’re funding today, their parents have been at war since 2001 — almost their whole lives,” Adams said. “Their parent was not only deployed throughout their childhood but in a combat zone a lot of times.”
“Their experiences are so much more unique than that of a typical student. They are adaptable. They are willing to go above and beyond. For them, failure is not an option. They persevere through challenges and opportunities in greater proportion, I think, than an average student does.”
The Scholarship Foundation awards roughly 200 scholarships to its Career and Technical Education applicants annually, totaling more than half a million dollars in scholarships.
That results in an award of about $3,500 per academic year.
The CTE scholarship is also renewable for up to four years, making it unique in that students have financial support for the duration of their program.
Why are CTE scholarships so important?
This ongoing funding is especially crucial because many shorter-term certificate or associate degree programs can be more expensive than other options and are not necessarily supported by other scholarship or aid organizations.
“We’re providing funding to students who may not otherwise qualify for scholarships or financial aid because of the type of program they’re pursuing,” Adams said. “There are very limited resources available to these students.”
For those who do receive Career and Technical Education Scholarships, having this additional support can make a huge difference in their future.
“The impact on their ability to attend a technical school is significant,” Adams said. “One hundred percent of our students indicate in post-completion surveys that the scholarship made a difference in their ability to attend post-secondary school of any kind.”
Scholarships from the Foundation also offer students unexpected benefits, such as having a chance to learn more about their parent’s service in the Marines.
“Our scholarship is a good opportunity for them to reconnect with their Marine parent and to learn more about their time in service and why their parent served” Adams said. “It’s a conversation starter.”
This positive impact continues to reverberate during the program — she noted many students say this scholarship means they don’t have to work multiple jobs or take on burdensome loans — and even lingers well after graduation.
For example, 53% of scholarship recipients graduate with little to no debt, defined as less than $10,000, which allows them to focus on developing their career.
Gabriel De La Rosa, in particular, has benefited greatly from this financial support.
He grew up disinterested in education and wasn’t even sure graduating from high school was a possibility.
But, his father, a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps, and his stepmother stuck with him and kept encouraging De La Rosa to create a better life for himself and consider pursuing postsecondary classes.
Their unwavering support — and the confidence and security he gained from earning a scholarship — paid off. De La Rosa is now a sophomore pursuing a career technical education certificate in the air conditioning, heating and refrigeration technology program at Coastal Carolina Community College.
He credits his father’s self-discipline as well as the Marine Corps’ values as motivating factors guiding him forward. “Regardless of whatever struggle one endures, anyone can become a success,” De La Rosa explained.
“These students are raised on the Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment,” Adams said of Career and Technical Education Scholarship recipients. “They’re incredibly resilient, determined, hardworking, and motivated beyond their years.”
The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation’s Career & Technical Education Scholarships help close the skills gap in America by providing funding for students pursuing a nondegree certificate program, as well as vocational training at a community college or select private career schools. If you are the child of a veteran, retired, reserve or active-duty U.S. Marine, or if you have had a parent who was killed while serving, learn more about whether this program is right for you by visiting mcsf.org/cte.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA Today Network were not involved in the creation of this content.