SIKESTON - Since the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center opened in January 1998, students of all ages have walked through the doors to take needed classes in order to fulfill graduation requirements, for work or to brush up on a particular subject.
Whatever the reason for choosing SAHEC, the numbers enrolling continue to support the belief of many that Sikeston and the surrounding area need a center offering higher education.
And to make it possible for more students to enroll in classes offered, a scholarship dinner/auction is planned for 6 p.m. April 6 at Ramada Inn. Tickets are $35 a person. Companies and organizations are encouraged to purchase a sponsor table for eight at a cost of $350. Anyone wishing to endow a scholarship may do so with a minimum of $10,000.
Proceeds from the event will be used for need-based and merit scholarship funds for SAHEF students.
"We only have two scholarships out there right now so we're trying to raise money to provide a lot more scholarships for students who want to go to college, especially right out here north of town," said Mike Parker, campaign chairman. "This will be our first of many, we hope. It's better than just going around asking people to give you money, which they're willing to do but this way they can attend a nice function."
Guest speaker for the evening will be Charles Stamp Jr. of Atlanta, Ga., a 1967 graduate of Sikeston High School who was a practicing attorney in Sikeston.
He most recently served as president of John Deere Special Technologies Group which offers a wide range of electronic, wireless communications, information management and internet-related products and services to a broad range of customers and markets.
Local and area merchants have donated a variety of door prizes to be given out throughout the night. The auction itself will include higher priced items including a gas-powered weedeater, Professional Golf Association items, a weekend for two in St. Louis and a garden package including expertise advice, among other things.
"It's starting to really accelerate now, people are starting to catch onto this and we're getting all kinds of neat things," Parker said. "It's going to be fun and nice but informal. Hopefully it's going to be an event not to miss every year that goes to a worthy worthy cause. It really helps all of our area as we get more people to increase their education and their knowledge.
"SAHEC is such a gift to our community and to our area. There are students that are full-time students who will go to SEMO for classes but may not have a class until 3 p.m. and would have to sit around. But they can drive home, take a break or whatever and take the class out here and still get the same credits because these are Three Rivers and Southeast professors who come over here and teach the classes. We were out there having a scholarship planning meeting Wednesday and Noranda was having two training classes. It's a wonderful facility and the scholarship need came to our mind so we just thought this was a great way to give people a nice evening and a good meal while raising money for the scholarship."
Noting that students have come from as far away as Jackson, Judy Buck, director of SAHEC, said two reasons the facility has been so successful are because of its uniqueness and convenience.
"People have such busy schedules today that it allows them to have more flexibility with their own lives and own schedules," she said. "They're able to get more things done in the time that they have so it enables people to schedule better and provides an access to higher education that they might not be able to take advantage of if they had to spend a minimum of two hours on the road going and coming to class. There is also the economics of it. It allows students to take junior college courses from Three Rivers which is a lesser tuition cost and there are people in the area who do not have adequate transportation, time or the money to travel back and forth to either Poplar Bluff or Cape Girardeau so that enables them to have access to higher education that they would not have due to the economics."
She pointed out a uniqueness in that unlike other higher education centers in the area, SAHEC offers courses from both Southeast and Three Rivers, pointing out that half of the 100 and 200 level courses are from TRCC and the other half from Southeast.
Buck said the goal of the upcoming event is to raise $50,000, a number she said is not unrealistic. She pointed out there are students in need of scholarship funding who are taking both Three Rivers and Southeast classes. The scholarship fund would be set up so they could take classes from either and benefit from the scholarships they qualify for. Without the new scholarship, if they take TRCC courses, the scholarships are just for Three Rivers classes and if they attend Southeast, the scholarships are only for Southeast. SAHEC has a combined enrollment so students with scholarships are not limited to where they take their classes.
"It's a little more personal and it gives the local community a little more ownership. They know that the money they will be contributing will be helping people from this area who are attending classes at SAHEC, it's not going into a general scholarship fund that is used to benefit maybe somebody attending from the north part of the state," said Buck. "This community and the area are all very generous and very supportive of the center and I see a benefit for all the communities in the area as well as Sikeston because their citizens are taking advantage of attending this center."
Tickets are available at the Chamber of Commerce offices in Sikeston, Charleston, East Prairie, New Madrid and Dexter, First State Bank and SAHEC in Sikeston, Citizens Bank, L&L Pharmacy and Deline Ag Products in Charleston and the office of Dr. Bill Kane in Dexter.
Anyone interested in making a donation to the general scholarship fund can send the money to Parker at P.O. Box 991 or to Buck at SAHEC, 2402 N. Main, both in Sikeston, Mo. 63801.