FARMINGTON — Leonard Wayne entered his final semester at San Juan College with one thing on his mind: making a better life for his family.
Wayne, who is majoring in applied sciences, said he started attending college three years ago after he lost his job in the oil industry when "everything slowed down."
"I sure didn't want to go back to building houses because I am getting older," said the 32-year-old, adding that he needed to find a way to support his two children and his girlfriend.
So he opted for college.
Wayne applied for scholarships throughout his college career to no avail. But for his final semester at the college this fall, he received a scholarship from 4 Corners Employer Education Services, a nonprofit that addresses workplace issues.
"I really think that it's important that we do much as we can to get education for the young people so they can make a better life for themselves," said Betty Asmus, chair of the organization's scholarship committee.
She and the committee selected two students, including Wayne, to receive a scholarship that covers tuition for up to two semesters or more than $600 per semester.
"It makes a difference," Wayne said.
Chelsea Paul was the other student selected. Paul wasn't available for comment, but according to an email from Asmus, Paul is a single mother and a full-time student working toward her degree or certificate in physical therapy assistance.
"She is awesome," said Michele Peterson, director of the Native American Center at San Juan College, who has helped Paul at the college.
Peterson said Paul's family was surprised to learn she had won the scholarship.
"She's definitely worth the scholarship," Peterson said.
Asmus said the committee selected students based on recommendations from instructors and students' volunteer activities and grade point averages.
"We want a student that is committed," she noted.
Wayne has volunteered to winterize homes on the Navajo Nation, and he also helps with Bible school to his church, according to an email from Asmus. Paul has volunteered with the San Juan College's powwow, the Salvation Army and the Manna Soup Kitchen in Durango, Colo.
Both students have the option of continuing their scholarships for the spring semester.
"If their grade point (average) is good, and they want to extend (the scholarship), we will extend it," Asmus said.
Wayne expects to graduate after the fall semester. Asmus said the scholarship committee will decide whether to open the scholarship for another students.
Wayne said he is thankful for the scholarship and hopes to find a job soon after he graduates.
"I wanted a career and not just a job that I can rely on that's going to take care of me and family for a very long time," he said.Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638. and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.