Adult Promise Gives Matthew Dodd The Solid Foundation He Needs To Succeed

Friday, September 22, 2017
Matthew Dodd
Matthew Dodd

Since the fall of 2015, approximately 150 students have received the Adult Promise Scholarship at Cleveland State Community College. Adult Promise is a last-dollar scholarship for adults available only at Cleveland State. With this scholarship, qualified adult students may pursue their dream of earning a college certificate or degree tuition free! 

Although CSCC’s Adult Promise is soon to be replaced with Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Reconnect initiative in the fall of 2018, the requirements are basically the same according to Eric Harris, Financial Aid specialist at CSCC. 

“Adult Promise and Tennessee Reconnect are almost identical in function, said Mr. Harris. “The difference is Adult Promise is funded through the Cleveland State Foundation and Tennessee Reconnect is funded through the state using revenue from the Tennessee Lottery. Current Adult Promise recipients will have to apply for Reconnect. The requirements are the same, so it should be a smooth transition, and I will be keeping track of each student to make sure there are no issues.”

Out of the 150 students who have received the Adult Promise Scholarship, 81 percent of those recipients either graduated or are currently attending this semester.

One of those students is Matthew Dodd. The Alpharetta, Ga., native went through a series of jobs right out of high school trying to find a career that was right for him. Nothing seemed to interest him—factories, restaurants and sales; he tried it all. He even attempted college at one point. He attended Georgia Southern for two semesters, but since he wasn’t sure of a major, he decided not to waste any more of his time.

“I came home from college, and my life crashed down on me. I went through a really bad phase. My mom died. My car got repossessed because I wasn’t working at the time. I was broke and penniless. I was actually living in a storage unit for 10 months.” 

Shortly after, Mr. Dodd’s luck changed when he was offered a job in Memphis with Solaris, a cell phone repair and accessory stand, which he took. He lived there for a few months before he was promoted to manage his own store at Bradley Square Mall which brought him to Cleveland.  

Fast forward a few years and Mr. Dodd still wanted that degree. When he saw a billboard on Keith Street advertising CSCC’s Adult Promise Scholarship and a free degree, he said he thought to himself, “Let’s do this!”

Mr. Dodd enrolled at CSCC in 2016 and since that time has taken a very active role at the college diving head first into student life on campus. He was voted vice president of Student Senate and is looking forward to serving in that capacity this year. 

“To me, learning is not just about getting information to use for my future career. It’s how everything works together. Being the vice president for Student Senate lets me see the relationship between different departments. It gives me a voice. It lets me take an active role in what my educational experience is like.”

Mr. Dodd said, “When you are involved, you are engaged. I have met a lot of new people. I have formed study groups. I have made a lot of friends. I have seen what I’m capable of from an educational standpoint—how much I can take on, and I’ve even surprised myself! Because I’ve stayed active, it’s kind of like being in a family, it’s like I have a family here at CSCC…I like being part of something bigger than myself.” 

In addition to college, Mr. Dodd also chose to join the United States Marine Corps Reserves and completed his basic training this summer in Parris Island, South Carolina. He has also been researching careers and jobs and has decided to major in Civil Engineering. When he graduates from CSCC, he plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) to pursue his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. 

“Adult Promise was the difference between me going to school or not going to school,” said Dodd. “I wouldn’t be here without it. I’m not going into debt. I’m not digging myself into a hole. I’m standing on solid ground and building solid foundation for myself. I hope anyone considering going back to school will look into a program such as this one or the Tennessee Reconnect and just dive in and face their fears! If you don’t dive in, you’ll never make that change. Just do it!”

Mr. Harris said, “I am extremely proud of Tennessee for committing to tuition-free community college for adults. Everyone who dreams of getting a college degree should be given the opportunity to earn it, regardless of their economic status. I’ve seen first-hand what a huge difference this type of assistance has made in the lives of our students. I look forward to seeing the positive impact this program has on our community. This is a big step in the right direction to make higher education attainable to all who seek it, and I hope more states follow Tennessee’s example.”

For more information on the Tennessee Reconnect, contact Natalia Williams at (423) 472-7141, ext. 217.

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