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Walla Walla Community College retirees contribute $50,000 in scholarships

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  • 2 min to read

Walla Walla Community College’s main building

A retired Walla Walla Community College vice president has reached into his own pockets to assist students in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He also got some fellow former staff members to join him.

Jim Peterson, who was the vice president of administrative services for the college, wanted a way to help students of the college struggling to make ends meet.

“I decided all I could do to help our college and our students was to raise some money,” Peterson said. “I didn’t want that effort to be insignificant, and I felt limited in what I could contribute personally. So, I invited my fellow retirees to join me in this effort.”

Peterson told Walla Walla Community College Foundation Executive Director Jessica Cook that he would donate two of his own dollars for every three dollars donated by other retirees up to $20,000 of his own money.

Cook said after discussing the idea, the decision was made to include retirees, as well as current and former community college trustees and current and former Foundation governors.

This group contributed $30,000. And so, Peterson added $20,00 of his own to bring the total to $50,000.

“I’m not going to work there everyday anymore, but my heart is still with the community college,” Peterson said. “In order for the college to be successful, students need to be successful.”

Cook said the money allows the college to open a summer round of scholarships.

“Our typical scholarship program’s applications are open from October to February,” Cook said, noting that many students didn’t apply for the need-based assistance not knowing that they would be heading into a global pandemic.

Cook said the college has seen a 500% increase in emergency assistance requests since March. She said having this second window to apply for need-based scholarships is huge.

In addition to the money raised by Peterson, other retirees and board members, the foundation was able to raise $20,000 from other donors. That means this round of scholarships will include $70,000 to hand out.

Peterson said he’s happy to be able to help people out in a way that is important to him.

“I spent nearly all of my work career at the college,” Peterson said. “I am very committed to the mission of the college to provide access to higher education to all people. I know that education is the pathway to students realizing their potential.”

Peterson said he’s grateful for the help others played in the effort.

“I started the idea and I contacted a lot of people, but I certainly thank everyone who joined in the goal of raising this $50,000,” Peterson said. “I just want to be sure that others who contributed know how much I appreciate their support in this effort.”

The deadline to apply for assistance is Friday. Money awarded can be used during the fall quarter, when the college expects to reopen for in-person instruction.

Earlier this week, the college announced plans to use a new learning model that incorporates in-person instruction and real-time and on-demand streaming classes.

“Our rapid transition to all-distance learning in spring quarter gave us information that has proven tremendously useful in moving forward this fall and into the future,” said college President Chad Hickox in a press release. “WWCC has a long history of meeting our communities’ and students’ needs, and we are continuing to do so by creating a new community college approach that fits today’s world.”

The plan will reduce the amount of students who are on campus at a given time.

Jeremy Burnham can be reached at or 509-551-8896.


Jeremy Burnham covers education and Columbia County for the Union-Bulletin. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University, where he studied journalism, and is an Eastern Eagle fanatic.