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Feb 22, 2021

Joyce Lantz is pictured with SCC's President, Dr. Don Tomas, and Foundation Director, Brett Woods.For more than a quarter of a century, Dogwood Crafters has been supporting Southwestern Community College students through annual contributions to scholarship funds – typically to students interested in studying the arts.

This fall, the Dillsboro-based artists’ co-op extended its longstanding support by giving its largest gift yet and designating it to support the next wave of frontline healthcare workers.

Dogwood Crafters’ $1,500 contribution will allow the SCC Foundation to present $750 scholarships to two Nursing students.

“This year in particular, it was natural to think outside the box and to do something that was more significant and more meaningful,” said Joyce Lantz, who presented the check to SCC officials last month.

The co-op made its first donation to the SCC Foundation in 1995.

“Consistent gifts from generous, community-minded organizations such as Dogwood Crafters are vital to helping our students succeed,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “Without scholarships, many of our students wouldn’t be able to complete their degrees at Southwestern. On behalf of our students, I’m extremely grateful to Joyce and all our friends at Dogwood Crafters.”

Established in 1973, the SCC Foundation exists solely to support the mission of SCC through its annual fund, endowed scholarships, estate planning and more.

In the current academic year, the SCC Foundation set all-time records by awarding support of more than $200,000 to 142 students.

“Even during some challenging economic times, our communities are rallying together to support our students,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “Dogwood Crafters Co-op is a great example of how generous individuals and organizations can make a tremendous difference in the lives of our students."

To support students or learn more about the SCC Foundation, please visit

Feb 11, 2021

Jeff MarleyOver the past decade at Southwestern Community College, serving as Heritage Arts Department Chair has become much more than a fun job for Jeff Marley.

It’s a passion.

Marley’s desire to see the program continue to flourish is the main reason he recently took steps to create the Heritage Arts Endowed Fund through the SCC Foundation. The scholarship will be used to financially support visiting artists, equipment, travel and salaries associated with the Heritage Arts program, which is housed at the SCC Swain Center.

“Unlike a scholarship for an individual student, this fund will benefit all students and the community through events and classes we offer,” Marley said. “I wanted to begin developing this fund to ensure the Heritage Arts program would have the fiscal means to be able to provide a wide variety of events well into the future. I want to sustain our program and provide many more opportunities to our students.”

The new fund will be sustained by a series of ongoing fundraising events Marley conducts each year at the SCC Swain Center. These events include special courses and the sales of handmade items created by students and artists enrolled at SCC.

Brett Woods, who oversees the SCC Foundation, helped Marley set up the new scholarship.

“Southwestern is fortunate to have dedicated, visionary, philanthropic employees like Jeff Marley,” Woods said. “He’s obviously talented as an artist and as an instructor, and he passes along to his students a tremendous understanding of – and passion for – Cherokee culture.”

For more information about the Heritage Arts Endowed Fund at SCC, or to make a donation, contact Woods at 828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

To learn more about Heritage Arts classes at Southwestern, contact Marley at 828.366.2005 or j_marley[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.


Dec 16, 2020

Two men hold a check while a third stands behind them. They are social distancing and wearing masksTravis Ashe (left), Area Manager for Pepsi-Cola of Whittier, presents a donation to Dr. Don Tomas, Southwestern Community College President, on Monday, Dec. 14, in Sylva. Behind them is Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation.

Every year, Pepsi employees forego their annual holiday party and instead give $1,000 to the SCC Foundation.

The money goes into SCC’s Student Emergency Fund, which helps deserving students who encounter unexpected financial emergencies so that they can remain at SCC and continue working toward their degrees, diplomas and/or certificates.

For more info about the Student Emergency Fund and the SCC Foundation, contact Woods at 828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]SouthwesternCC[dot]edu – or visit

Oct 20, 2020

A young woman with black hair smiles under a tree on a foggy morning
Jasmine Cline of Robbinsville is one of the SCC Foundation’s Student Success Scholarship recipients this year and a student in SCC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program.
The difference between a college graduate and a college dropout could be something as simple as a broken laptop, a failed well pump or need for childcare.
It could also be a scholarship that provides the extra tuition a student might not otherwise be able to afford for a particular semester at Southwestern Community College.
Through a wide variety of student scholarships and funding initiatives, this year the SCC Foundation has been able to award a record-breaking $200,000 in financial support during a time of uncertainty and hardship when students need it more than ever.
For 2020-21, the SCC Foundation awarded 142 individual scholarships totaling $172,000; supported 33 students through their Student Emergency Fund totaling $7,000; and provided $21,000 toward the New Century Scholars program at SCC.
While the SCC Foundation relies heavily on private donors to support students, more than $16,000 came directly from the donations of SCC faculty and staff.
“We are thrilled to have reached yet another milestone within the SCC Foundation by changing a record number of student lives through scholarship support this year. We've seen significant philanthropic momentum externally and also internally, with 62 of our own employees making gifts to support our students,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “We are crafting a new culture of philanthropy. We are grateful, we are appreciative and on behalf of our students, we thank our donors for making this record-breaking year possible.”
Seven years ago, the SCC Foundation was only able to help one out of every five students who applied for financial assistance. For the current academic year, SCC was able to assist almost half (128 out of 270).
But that means 50 percent of qualified applicants still aren’t receiving assistance.
“One of my top priorities when I arrived here in 2011 was to find a way to fund and award more student scholarships, and the SCC Foundation has done a wonderful job of doing exactly that,” said SCC President Dr. Don Tomas. “It's gratifying to see so many more students getting the financial help they need, and we are so thankful to all of our donors for making this happen. Our work continues to provide scholarships for each student who applies for financial assistance.”
Lisa Leatherman, who currently serves as chair of the SCC Foundation, is optimistic about SCC’s ability to bridge that gap and continue serving more students than ever.
SCC and our Foundation are only as strong as the communities we serve,” said Leatherman. “Financial support provided by donors in Jackson, Macon, Swain and surrounding counties support and sustain a vibrant and growing workforce for our state and the Western North Carolina region.”
Jasmine Cline, a student in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program and one of this year’s Student Success Scholarship recipients, credits the Foundation’s support as a key part of her success.
“The scholarship I’ve received has freed and enabled me to pour all of my attention into my studies and becoming great at my passion, which is caring for others,” said Cline. “I truly can’t thank the donors and everyone at SCC enough for this opportunity. It’s such a weight off my shoulders.”
To support students or learn more about the SCC Foundation, please visit

Sep 28, 2020

Two gentleman shake hands while wearing masks and standing apart
Travis Ashe (left) of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company in Whittier presents a donation of $6,000 for the SCC Foundation to Dr. Don Tomas, SCC president.
Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company in Whittier recently presented a check for $6,000 to the Southwestern Community College Foundation in support of student scholarships.
Long-time supporters of the college, Pepsi-Cola has given more than $76,000 in financial support to the SCC Foundation over the past 21 years.
“One reason we support the SCC Foundation is because it’s local, and we know Southwestern helps the economy here in Western North Carolina,” said Ronnie Bowers, location sales manager for Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company in Whittier. “We want to be a part of that.”
This year, the SCC Foundation has been able to award a record-breaking $200,000 in student scholarships, largely because of private donations such as this one.
“Pepsi has been one of our most-loyal and generous donors over the years,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC’s president. “We are extremely grateful for their consistent support. So many of our students have been able to achieve success thanks to Pepsi’s generosity.”
Before 2001, Pepsi-Cola of Whittier used to throw an annual holiday party for all its employees in December. However, for the past 19 years, the employees have decided they would rather donate the funding set aside for the party to a local charity. In recent years, they have been donating that money to the Southwestern Community College Foundation’s Student Emergency Fund.
Established in 2014, the Student Emergency Fund helps deserving students who encounter unexpected financial emergencies so that they can remain at SCC and continue working toward their degrees, diplomas and/or certificates.
Despite being able to award a record number of scholarships, approximately half of the students (142 of 270) who applied for financial assistance and met eligibility requirements were unable to receive assistance due to limited resources.
According to Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation, that need has never been greater, especially because of COVID-related hardships currently facing students.
“We are always extremely grateful to receive a financial gift from Pepsi, but especially now during a time of such great need for our students,” said Woods. “These are such difficult times, not just for students but also for our communities and businesses, and for Pepsi of Whittier to still provide such generous support means a lot to us.”
To support students or learn more about the SCC Foundation, click HERE.

Aug 24, 2020

A woman smiles while shaking hands with two men and presenting a check
In this file photo from 2015, Lisa Leatherman (Center) of Duke Energy shakes hands with and presents a check to SCC Foundation Director Brett Woods (Left) and SCC President Dr. Don Tomas (Right) on behalf of Duke Energy.
Lisa Leatherman, Nantahala District Manager for Duke Energy Carolinas, has begun serving as Chair of the SCC Foundation Board as of August 4.
Leatherman, who has helped the SCC Foundation raise more than $22,000 since 2015, recently secured an additional $5,000 from the Duke Energy Foundation toward the New Century Scholars (NCS) program. A collaborative effort between Southwestern Community College and public schools in Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties, NCS provides support, encouragement and financial assistance to high-achieving high-school students.
“The NCS program provides key support and assistance to talented students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to advance their education,” Leatherman said. “It’s so important for our local students to have this chance.”
Each year, seventh graders from throughout SCC’s service area (Jackson, Swain, and Macon Counties) are selected as New Century Scholars. These students receive last-dollar tuition assistance to attend SCC upon graduating high-school as long as they fulfill the program obligations, which include maintaining their grades, engaging in community service projects and participating in professional development and networking opportunities.
The program is funded entirely by annual donations from outside sources and private donors, including corporate contributors like Duke Energy.
“Duke Energy is proud to contribute to such a valuable and beneficial program in our communities, and it’s been an honor to work with SCC over the last five years and see first-hand how many lives we’ve helped change,” said Leatherman. “I’m honored to become Chair this year, and I can’t wait to see these students accomplish great things even in such unprecedented times.”
According to Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation, NCS is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is continuing to thrive thanks in large part to the longstanding support of both Duke Energy and Leatherman. Since 1992, Duke Energy has donated more than $53,000 to the SCC Foundation to support student scholarships.
“We are truly grateful for Duke Energy’s continued support, for seeing the potential in this program and for helping our students accomplish their dreams,” Woods said. “Lisa is a true supporter of SCC and we’re excited for her to take on this role.”
For more information on New Century Scholars, contact Freya Kinner, SCC’s NCS Coordinator, at f_kinner[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu or 828.339.4477.
To support New Century Scholars, visit “Give Now” at, or contact Woods at b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu or 828.339.4241

Jul 29, 2020

By Cameron Wood, SCC Public Relations Intern
Therapeutic Massage continuing education courses are available for fall 2020 
Southwestern Community College’s Therapeutic Massage program is offering an opportunity this fall for professionals in the field to continue their education throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Registration for the Advanced Skills of Massage (MTH 210) course is open, and classes will start on Aug. 17.

“During these unsettling times, it is important to be educated on critical thinking in regard to the virus and other pathologies. We will spend time expanding our critical thinking skills and understanding how we can help and ways we can avoid hurting our clients. This course is designed to increase your skills in outcome-based massage so that you can learn how to design a plan for every client,” said Therapeutic Massage instructor Casey Dupree.

This course will cover 12 modalities including shiatsu, neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release, spa techniques, medical massage and much more.

Appropriate protection and social distancing measures are in place for a safe and effective learning environment while receiving hands-on instruction.

Hours from this course will apply toward requirements for continuing education licensing in 2021 and toward receiving an associate degree.

For more information, contact Casey Dupree at c_dupree[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

Jul 7, 2020

Group of students hikes outdoors
ABOVE: Dustin Wilson, shown here at right in 2003 on an SCC Outdoor Leadership class hike, was recently named the recipient of Southwestern’s Distinguished Alumni Award. BELOW: Dustin Wilson is shown here holding a book he was given by Outdoor Leadership Program Coordinator Paul Wolf at the college’s 2003 graduation ceremony in Sylva.

Just over seventeen years ago, Dustin Wilson found himself backpacking through the Western North Carolina wilderness with a group of Southwestern Community College classmates.

The hike on a portion of the Bartram Trail was designed to bring together all lessons from a land-based class. For Wilson, the experience instilled all the confidence he’d need to chart his own career in the world of Outdoor Leadership.

“Just being able to see the skills I had learned in a classroom and directly translating them into a positive experience of being able to overcome obstacles, have fun and earn a living from this – it proved to me that I could do this,” Wilson recalled recently. “I saw that other people were believing in me and trusting in me because of the skills I’d developed.”

Wilson earned his associate degree from SCC shortly after that 2003 hike, and his educational journey eventually led him to earn a Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management from Clemson University. He how holds the title of Outdoor Recreation Planner for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C.

He also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Parks and Recreation Management and Public Management, respectively, from Western Carolina University.

Based on all that he’s accomplished and his continued engagement with Southwestern, Wilson has been named the recipient of the college’s second annual Distinguished Alumni Award.

“My experience at SCC was the catalyst for my future,” Wilson said. “It feels really great to know that an institution I really enjoyed attending, learned a ton from and where I had such great experiences has come back and expressed pride in where I am today and some of my accomplishments along the way.”

Established in 2019, the award is given annually to an alumnus/alumna who has attained extraordinary distinction and outstanding performance in his or her career field while demonstrating exceptional community leadership.

Last year’s recipient was Kyle Dowling, a 2013 graduate and the supervisor and training officer for Harris Regional Hospital’s EMS Department. The selection is annually made by a committee organized by the SCC Foundation and chaired by Dr. Mark Ellison, who also serves as SCC’s Director of Enrollment Management.

“Since our college’s founding in 1964, thousands of graduates have gone on to make a significant and positive impact on our service area, state and beyond,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “It is no small task for our selection committee to comb through nominations each year and select just one graduate for this honor, but I am confident they once again got this choice right. Dustin makes us all proud with what he’s accomplished and with what he does every day for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”

In his current role, Wilson writes environmental assessments and impact statements for non-federal hydro-power licenses. For example, if an organization wants to build a dam, many steps must be taken to safeguard the environment. Wilson works with engineers and other professionals to ensure recreational and cultural resources such as historic properties and gravesites are protected.

“Dustin credits Southwestern Community College's key role in his outstanding academic and career achievements,” Dr. Ellison said. “We are proud to recognize such an accomplished SCC alumnus.”

Added Paul Wolf, SCC’s founding and current Outdoor Leadership Program Coordinator: “Dustin was very goal-driven as a student. He possessed a natural curiosity and was very quick to understand and apply the hard and soft skills needed of an outdoor leader.

“I am extremely proud of the trajectory of Dustin’s career path,” Wolf added. “Seeing the impact he is making on the recreational use and protection of our country’s natural resources and being able to mentor him on his journey makes me grateful to have been part of his formative years here at SCC.”

A native of Madison, Ala., Wilson regularly took vacation trips with his family to the North Carolina mountains. He fell in love with the area and moved here at the age of 21 after learning of SCC’s Outdoor Leadership program through Internet research.

Wilson credits Wolf, his primary instructor, with providing the example and direction he needed at that point in his life.

“Paul was extremely energetic; you could tell he had a huge passion for what he did,” Wilson said. “He helped plant a seed for me to not just participate and pass but to do as well as I could. That was extraordinary. I had been to a community college and university in Alabama, but I never came across anyone like him. Even to this day, I think of the ways he helped to guide me, and I am so appreciative.”

Nominations are accepted annually for SCC’s Distinguished Alumni Award. For more info, visit

For more information about Southwestern and the programs it offers, call 828.339.4000, visit or drop by your nearest SCC location.

A young man smiles underneath a tree outside
Brennan Waitt, a 2019 Student Success Scholarship recipient majoring in Information Technology and Web Development
This past year, the SCC Foundation was thankful to award more than $160,000 in student scholarships to help change the lives of our hard-working, determined students. 

During the unprecedented times we are facing right now, the need for student financial support is greater than ever, and there are many ways you can give -- one of which won’t require you to give a single penny beyond your normal spending.

With AmazonSmile, 0.5% of every purchase you make on Amazon is donated directly to the SCC Foundation to be used for student scholarships with absolutely no additional cost to you.

Start by visiting If you are an existing Amazon customer, use your usual log-in information. Once you are logged in, AmazonSmile will ask you to "Select a Charitable Organization to Start Shopping.” Scroll to the field that allows you to pick your own charitable organization, and type in “Southwestern Community College Foundation”. Be sure to choose the one in Sylva, and then you can start shopping.

While it may not seem like much individually, these donated percentages truly add up. With hundreds of employees potentially shopping on Amazon, along with thousands of students and members of our communities, we have the possibility to raise a significant amount of money toward student scholarships.

Thank you for your support of the SCC Foundation.

"AmazonSmile. You shop, Amazon gives."

Jul 1, 2020

A group of young students smile while sitting on a large inflatable chair

2019 New Century Scholars inductees from Jackson County were, bottom row, from left: Gentry Bumgarner, Jordan Bryson, William Weatherford, Jason Moody and Morgana McCollough. Seated atop the chair, from left: Bailey Bumgarner, Autumn Coggins, Chiara Salgado Rivera, Ava Krauss and Ethan Gilder. Standing at left is Tatum Griffin, and Elias Cruz-Ramirez is at right. Not pictured are Christian Alcantar, Melia Cherry and Madison Franks.

Twenty-five years ago, a college education really wasn’t within reach for hundreds of families in Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties.

In 1995, Dr. Barry Russell, then-President of Southwestern Community College, and former Jackson County Superintendent, Dr. Charles McConnell, decided to find a way for deserving, high-potential students to achieve a college education.

They approached community leaders to sponsor the program by donating $500 each (the cost of SCC tuition at the time), ensuring a two-year education at SCC for the first group of students. Through these donations, the program known as New Century Scholars (NCS) was formed.

Shortly after the program was launched, then-N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt met with two of the first NCS, Krystal Hoyle and Ivan Knight, as well Dr. McConnell and Dr. Russell.

Hoyle, who is now a paramedic and an N.C. paramedic instructor, remains thankful after 25 years for the financial assistance and professional development opportunities of the program.

“The program took away so much of the financial burden from our parents, families and even us as students. I’m obviously really grateful for that,” said Hoyle. “But the mentorship you received from the leaders who were working with you was more of a help to me, personally, than any other part of the program. You learned how to work with other people, interview and get involved in your local community.”

As of 2020, more than 2,400 students have been able to change their lives through the program.

Another one of those students is Zackary Pazar, an upcoming sophomore at Macon Early College. His mother, Nikki, has noticed many positive changes in her son.

“This program has changed Zack. It’s really given him something to work for. If we didn’t have this program, I don’t know what the chances would be for him to go to college,” said Nikki Pazar. “He’s a good student, and scholarships are out there, but they aren’t guaranteed. With NCS, we don’t have to worry anymore.”

Zackary has also noticed the changes in himself as a student since becoming a New Century Scholar.

“I wasn’t always motivated in school, but when I was selected for NCS, it made me want to study more. Being in the NCS program makes me want to focus more and work harder at school,” he said. “My education is more important to me now.”

In addition to last-dollar tuition support, NCS also provides resources and mentorship to students as they navigate middle and high school, engaging them in community service projects, professional development and networking opportunities to provide them with excellent educational and career experiences.

All funding for the program since its inception has come from the private donations of local donors within Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties.

“At Southwestern, we are extremely proud to be a part of this wonderful program that has provided a brighter future to so many young people in our service area,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “We are blessed to live in a region with so many generous individuals who make New Century Scholars possible year after year.”

For more information on New Century Scholars, contact Freya Kinner, SCC’s NCS Coordinator, at f_kinner[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu or 828.339.4477.

To support New Century Scholars, visit “Give Now” at, or contact Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation, at b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu or 828.339.4241

Jan 8, 2020

Four men and a woman pose for a photo indoors at Harrah's.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort officials recently announced plans to endow a scholarship through the SCC Foundation. Pictured are, from left: Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation; Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President; Brooks Robinson, Regional Senior Vice President and General Manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Properties; Dr. Jo Ray, Harrah’s Regional Vice President for Community Relations & Employee Wellness; and Dr. Thom Brooks, Executive Vice President for Instruction and Student Services at SCC.

Through support of Southwestern Community College’s annual fundraising gala and the state’s first table-gaming school, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and General Manager Brooks Robinson have become more than just partners with SCC.

“They are friends,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “They are friends to our college, to our foundation and – most importantly – to our students.”

In December, the region’s largest employer made a commitment to take its support of SCC and its students to an entirely new level. Robinson and Dr. Jo Ray, Harrah’s Regional Vice President for Community Relations & Employee Wellness, signed an agreement on Dec. 16 to endow a scholarship through the SCC Foundation over the next three years.

The scholarship will be awarded for the first time in the fall of 2020.

“The impact of Harrah’s generosity and support through the gala as well as this new scholarship will be felt by our students for decades to come,” Dr. Tomas said. “It’s been an honor to work so closely with Mr. Robinson, Dr. Ray and their team these past few years. I personally could not be more grateful for their friendship.”

Robinson’s official title is Regional Senior Vice President and General Manager of Harrah’s Cherokee Properties. Since 2012, he has served on the Board of Directors for the SCC Foundation.

“Our partnership with SCC is mutually beneficial,” Robinson said. “We provide support to grow students educationally and professionally, and in return SCC provides us quality employees. In the process, we form and grow relationships and friendships, and in the end, everyone wins. It is these types of partnerships that Harrah’s Cherokee values. Our Code of Commitment promises that we will work in our communities to make them better places to live and work.”

Since Harrah’s began hosting the SCC Foundation’s gala and providing a leadership level of support in 2015, the event has raised more than $350,000.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 area residents have graduated from Southwestern’s table-gaming school with the opportunity to fill some of the top-paying jobs in the area.

“Throughout my time at Southwestern, our friends at Harrah’s have offered their unwavering support,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation. “This new scholarship just goes to show how serious they are about helping our students succeed. We greatly value their friendship, and we look forward to working with them for years to come.”

To be considered for the scholarship, students must be enrolled full-time and be pursuing an associate degree. Candidates must have and maintain a Grade Point Average of 3.0 or better. Preference will be given to children of Harrah’s employees. However, if a child of a Harrah’s employee does not apply in a given year, preference will be given to residents of Harrah’s service region – the seven North Carolina counties west of Buncombe.

For more information about the SCC Foundation, click here or contact Woods directly (828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu).

Nov 26, 2019

More than a dozen students pose on a blue inflatable chair with SCC logos.
Jackson County students inducted into the New Century Scholars program on Nov. 18 included, bottom row, from left: Gentry Bumgarner, Jordan Bryson, William Weatherford, Jason Moody and Morgana McCollough. Seated atop the chair, from left: Bailey Bumgarner, Autumn Coggins, Chiara Salgado Rivera, Ava Krauss and Ethan Gilder. Standing at left is Tatum Griffin, and Elias Cruz-Ramirez is at right. Not pictured are Christian Alcantar, Melia Cherry and Madison Franks. The ceremony was held on SCC’s Jackson Campus in Sylva.

Most academic ceremonies at Southwestern Community College pay tribute to what current students have already accomplished in their pursuit of higher education.

The annual New Century Scholars induction instead celebrates the bright collegiate future awaiting several dozen area middle schoolers.

More than 40 seventh graders from Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties walked across the Myers Auditorium stage on Nov. 18 and received certificates signifying the promise of a tuition-free SCC education set to begin in the year 2025.

“Every one of these students has been hand-picked by middle-school teachers, and we could not be more excited to know they’ll be walking across this very same stage to receive their associate degrees eight years from now,” said Freya Kinner, New Century Scholars Coordinator.

Lena Wilson, a graduate of the program, served as the featured speaker and encouraged this year’s inductees to take full advantage of their opportunities.

More than 2,400 students have been inducted as New Century Scholars since it was established in 1995. The program provides resources and support to students as they navigate middle and high school – preparing them for a successful experience in college without worrying about the financial aspect.

New Century Scholars is supported entirely by private donations and provides last-dollar tuition assistance.

“At Southwestern, we are extremely proud to be a part of this wonderful program that has provided a brighter future to so many young people in our service area,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “We are blessed to live in a region with so many generous individuals who make New Century Scholars possible year after year.”

More than a dozen students pose on a blue inflatable chair with SCC logos.
ABOVE: Macon County students inducted into the New Century Scholars program on Nov. 18 included, bottom row, from left: Skyler Taylor (kneeling), Abby Maney, Sheana Morgan, Emily Pazar, McKenna Plemmons, Molly Ramey and Helen Ward (kneeling). Top row, from left: Elisabeth Ramos Soriano (standing), Ophelia Contreras-Garcia, Joselyn Herrera-Hernandez, Emma Ledford, Lida Lopez, Yuritza Lopez Santos, Lathea Watts (seated atop right arm) and Jackie Ramos Soriano. The ceremony was held on SCC’s Jackson Campus in Sylva. BELOW: Swain County students inducted into the New Century Scholars program on Nov. 18 included, bottom row, from left: Ben Walls (kneeling), Nichole Green, Aaliyah Griffin, Addisyn Jenkins, Kiana Parton and Eugene Pyles. Top row, from left: Hadleigh Stiles (standing), Rocky Barker, Greyson Beck, Pippa Jo Bridges, Gunnar Floyd, Logan Green, Max Wilmot (seated atop right arm), Aiden Smith (standing) and Lorelei Wegner (standing). Not pictured is Nse Uffort. The ceremony was held on SCC’s Jackson Campus in Sylva.
More than a dozen students pose on a blue inflatable chair with white SCC logos.

In addition to working toward their high school diplomas, New Century Scholars are required to participate in community service activities that encourage leadership skills and explore potential future career options.

To support this program, donations may be made at or by check to New Century Scholars and sent to the SCC Foundation, 447 College Drive, Sylva, NC 28779.

For more information about New Century Scholars, contact Freya Kinner, SCC’s New Century Scholars coordinator at f_kinner[at]SouthwesternCC[dot]edu or 828.339.4477.


Aug 19, 2019

Native American pottery crafted by Alvina Yepa. Made in Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. 

Online bidding for our "Boots, Blue Jeans & Bling" Gala is now open through Silent Auction Pro. 

To bid on items, you are required to have an account with Silent Auction Pro and have a credit card on file. However, you may view items up for bid without having an account. 

To register for an account, please click here. 
To simply view items, please click here.

Auction items range from Native American art, woven baskets and handcrafted jewelry to vacation packages and gift certificates from regional businesses. Whether you're looking for a one-of-a-kind piece to add to your home or an unforgettable local experience, there are items for everyone with all proceeds going directly to our students. 

While you do not have to attend the Gala to participate in online bidding, we would love to have you join us. Every year, faculty, staff and community members come together for an exciting night of music and dining, ready to dance the night away in their finest country bling.

Since Southwestern Community College held its first fundraising gala in 2014, some aspects have changed: the venue, menu, musical entertainment and activities.

“Boots, Blue Jeans & Bling” will still feature a casual vibe, plenty of fun and – most importantly – it will raise money to help students succeed at SCC.

This year’s event, which is scheduled for Sept. 7 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, also aims to keep alive another positive trend by raising more scholarship funding than the year before. Over the past five years, the gala has raised more than $275,000 – including a record $72,000 at the 2018 event.

“When we held our first gala, we could only dream it would grow into what it’s become today,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President. “The communities we serve in Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary continuously impress us with their generosity and commitment to our college. The best part of the Gala is that at the end of the evening, the real winners are our students.”

"Girl of the Water" giclee on canvas by Bryan Waytula.
"Girl of the Water" giclee on canvas by Bryan Waytula. 

To Dr. Tomas’ point, the SCC Foundation this year was able to award 128 scholarships worth a total of $167,000. That’s a huge improvement from seven years ago, when SCC was only able to help 32 students with a total of $33,000.

However, much work remains to be done. A total of 333 deserving students applied for scholarship assistance this year, but there simply wasn’t enough funding to go around.

“Without the scholarship money this event has raised over the years, many of our students simply wouldn’t be where they are today,” said Vance Davidson, a member of the SCC Board of Trustees who also serves on the SCC Foundation’s gala-planning committee. “We’re hoping that this year’s Gala will take our fundraising efforts to a whole new level.”

Transitioning from the bluegrass genre of recent galas, this year’s affair will spotlight the versatile band Crocodile Smile that plays everything from old-school throwback and Motown to country, rock and current Top 40 tunes.

Steve Johannessen, who’s performed at every gala to date, will sing classics from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Co-chairs for this year’s gala will once again be Lambert Wilson, who serves on SCC’s Board of Trustees, and Wendy LeMay, who is also Chair of the SCC Foundation Board of Directors.

“We have tremendous leadership and extremely active and enthusiastic members on our gala planning committee, and they are a key reason this event continues to gain momentum to benefit our students,” said Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation.

“Every single year, people tell us they really appreciate the relaxed, casual atmosphere of our gala,” Woods added. “That’s why we’re keeping the same basic look and feel as all past galas with cornhole, a silent auction, best-dressed contest and  wine pull. We’ll also have music that’s easy to dance to, and everyone will have a lot of fun.”

To select a sponsorship level, purchase tickets, sign up for the silent auction or get more info, visit or contact Kathryn Posey, SCC’s Institutional Development Associate, at 828.339.4227 or k_posey[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

Click here to see a gallery of photos from last year's gala (This link will take you off SCC's website to Facebook).

Jul 9, 2019

Black and white photo of a man
William B. Dillard

Without William B. Dillard, the institution known today as Southwestern Community College would not have been established 55 years ago.


Dillard saw the need, gained the necessary political support and donated money, resources and material for constructing the first building on what is now a bustling, vibrant community college on Webster Road. He even signed loans for students so they could take the training offered, and he served as a member of the college’s initial advisory panel and later as founding chairman and member of the Board of Trustees for a combined 20 years.

Though Dillard passed away 37 years ago, his legacy of helping Southwestern’s students remains alive - and continues to grow even today – through a scholarship that bears his name.

Awarded annually since 1982, the scholarship recently exceeded the $15,000 threshold for becoming endowed while simultaneously adding the name of Dillard’s wife, Catherine, to the title.

Shortly after Mrs. Dillard passed away in May of this year, her children presented a check to the SCC Foundation that transformed the “William B. Dillard Scholarship” into the “William B. and Catherine H. Dillard Endowed Scholarship.”

 “Southwestern was a big part of our family’s life throughout my years growing up in Jackson County,” recalled Catherine Collins, one of the Dillards’ seven children. “My father poured so much of his time and resources into starting this college, and our mother was supportive every step of the way. We want to ensure their legacy of helping the people of this area remains strong for many years and decades to come, and that’s why we’ve fully endowed this scholarship fund.”

A Jackson County native, Mr. Dillard was named the county’s “Man of the Year” in 1965 – just a few months after Southwestern opened its doors as the Jackson County Industrial Education Center (a satellite campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institute.

Following Mr. Dillard’s death in 1982, Mrs. Dillard accepted her husband’s seat on Southwestern’s Board of Trustees and served until 1995.

 “When you look back over the history of our college, students have always come first – and that started with William and Catherine Dillard,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC’s President since 2011. “More than 50 years ago, Mr. Dillard had the vision to see that an institution like this would be a tremendous benefit to the communities we serve.

“If you add up the Dillards’ service to our college, they spent more than 31 years in leadership roles here,” Dr. Tomas added. “I am thrilled that we can continue honoring this family’s legacy year after year by making it possible for future students to attend our college through this endowed scholarship.”

Man and woman sitting on front porch of a home
ABOVE: Catherine H. Dillard is shown here last year at her 95th birthday party with Founding SCC Trustee Paul Holt. BELOW: Joey DeHart was the first recipient of the William B. Dillard Scholarship through Southwestern’s Foundation.
Man poses outdoors with his diploma

Joey DeHart – the first Dillard Scholarship recipient in 1983 – knows first-hand how helpful the financial assistance can be to a student at Southwestern.

“Southwestern helped me get out of my shell and gain so much confidence that I could be a leader,” said DeHart, who grew up in Stecoah. “That scholarship was huge for me. It was around $500. It bought quite a few books and helped me out tremendously.”

After graduating from SCC in 1985, DeHart moved to Atlanta and landed a job with Arby’s. He climbed the corporate ladder there, becoming a training manager and later earning a spot working with the organization’s special food products and new concepts.

He traveled overseas, opening new restaurants in Sydney, Australia. Later, he was instrumental in developing Arby’s Market Fresh line of sandwiches.

“I never got to meet Mr. Dillard,” DeHart said. “But I’ve heard a lot about him, so it’s kind of like I did know him. I know about the empire he built. He sacrificed a lot for his family and for this community. He was a very hard-working man, and all of his kids turned out the same.”

To learn more about endowed scholarships and other ways to support SCC students, contact Brett Woods, Director of the SCC Foundation, at 828.339.4241 or b_woods[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

For more information about SCC and the programs it offers, visit, call 828.339.4000 or drop by your nearest SCC location.

May 29, 2019

Macon County wins Ducks on the Tuck again!
Animated graphic shows three ducks, each representing a different county in SCC's service area, racing in a river. After the fourth and final week, the blue duck representing Jackson County edged out Macon County's red duck and Swain County's maroon one.
With less than a week remaining, Jackson County has opened up an early lead.

This year's race was May 17

For so many local students and their families, the annual "Ducks on the Tuck" race has provided a fun, interactive way to raise money for the New Century Scholars program.

All proceeds from the virtual race fundraiser go toward the New Century Scholars program, to help students in Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties attain their education.

For the second straight year, Macon County edged out its two neighboring counties by raising the most money. Dr. Chris Baldwin, Macon County's superintendent, will be awarded the "Ducks on the Tuck Trophy."

Dozens of prizes were up for grabs this year, including a flat-screen television donated by Custom Sound and Security of Franklin.

This was the third year the race was held virtually. Jackson County narrowly edged out Macon in 2017, the first year of the virtual race.

“Ducks on the Tuck is fun, but students benefiting from all the fun is the best part of it all,” said Dr. Don Tomas, president of SCC. “This program has been supporting students for more than two decades, and this fundraiser is essential to the future of New Century Scholars. We’re hoping the people of Jackson, Macon and Swain Counties will continue to support these students and their families.”

Established in 1995 by Dr. Charles McConnell, former Jackson County superintendent, and then-SCC president Dr. Barry Russell, New Century Scholars provides last-dollar tuition assistance and extra support such as dedicated advising to deserving area students.

New Century Scholars has served more than 2,200 students over the years. At present, 286 students participate in grades 7-12, and 167 attend SCC as adult students.

Funding is provided through private donations, fundraisers and NCS endowments.
Tickets can be purchased from New Century Scholars, their program coordinators or the SCC Foundation.

For more info or to support New Century Scholars, contact Kathy Posey at 828.339.4227 or k_posey[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.

(Click here to see a list of all 2018 winners)