News & Events

Dunham Fund Quick Path Scholars Introduced

John Dunham believed in the power of education to change people’s lives, and this week, Ryan Maley, Chairman of the Aurora-based Dunham Fund, met a group of Waubonsee Community College students whose lives are about to change due to that enduring belief and legacy.

The inaugural class of the Waubonsee Community College Dunham Fund Quick Path Program.

The college’s inaugural class of Dunham Fund Quick Path Program scholars were welcomed during a ceremony that officially launched the innovative and intensive program, which will provide a one-year, free associate degree to 20 students. Funded by a $500,000 grant from the Dunham Fund, the program provides students with full tuition, books, a computer, a stipend, lunch every day and coaching by a dedicated staff member. Courses will run in eight-week blocks and will be delivered in-person and online. The curriculum has a business focus but still results in a degree that is fully transferable.

The ceremony took place at the college’s Sugar Grove Campus Academic Professional Center, where students and their families were welcomed by Waubonsee administrators, faculty, staff, Dunham Fund board members and staff.

“I am excited about the innovative nature of this program,” Maley said. “It may be a way to transform education.”

Maley acknowledged that for many students, “time is the enemy.”

“The longer it takes to complete your education, the more likely it is that degree will be delayed as life circumstances get in the way,” he said, explaining why the combination of generous funding and intensive learning is emphasized in the program.

Viridiana Diaz, of Aurora, described the program as the opportunity of a lifetime. Born and raised on the east side of Aurora, she graduated from East Aurora High School three years ago. Having grown up in a single parent, low-income household, she turned down scholarship offers from colleges in order to stay home and help her mother. She took a full-time job at a hotel and tried to balance school and work, but found that she had to set her dreams aside because the priorities were too difficult to balance. Then, she heard about the Dunham Fund Quick Path Program at Waubonsee on Facebook.

“It was a dream come true,” she said. “For 20 of us, this makes our world so much better.”

Fluent in three languages, Diaz said she hopes to pursue a degree in international business.

“Thank you for this opportunity,” she said. “We’ll be your best investment.”

Waubonsee President Dr. Christine Sobek explained to the students that the college is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and that they likely felt the same way as the college’s first students who enrolled five decades ago.

“Like those first students who enrolled in a new college and faced the unknown, you might feel like this is a leap of faith as you embark on this ambitious program,” she said. “Each of you will be a different person at the end of this year.”

The inaugural class of students are: Monica Aguirre, Aurora; Mahelet Bernal, Aurora; Timothy Borneman, Aurora; Viridiana Diaz, Aurora; Sasha Figueroa, Geneva; Izac Gomez, Aurora; Maria Hernandez-Zenteno, Aurora; Miguel Lara-Bueno, Aurora Josue Morales, Montgomery; Martin Morales, North Aurora; Alan Morrow, Aurora; Rebecca Price, Aurora; Trenton Roberts, Oswego; Stephany Rodriguez, Aurora; Lisette Rosales, Aurora; Jori Stewart, Yorkville; Karli Vass, Geneva; Caleb Vest, Aurora; Hailey Von Ruden, Geneva; Lizet Zuniga, Montgomery.