Sherly Carroll, left, and Guangyuan Ding received a scholarship honoring the legacy of ESL teacher Kathryn Christopherson. Both were honored on April 27, 2017 at Kenai Peninsula College. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

ESL students earn memorial scholarship

Two students at Kenai Peninsula College will continue their education while honoring a late English as a Second Language instructor with the Kathryn Christopherson Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship was awarded to Guangyuan Ding and Sherly Carroll, both students who had worked through the college’s ESL program, have become Certified Nursing Asstants and are now pursuing their nursing degrees.

“I work full time while taking college classes and take care of my family back home in the Phillipines, and this is my very first scholarship that I’ve ever received… This is a great help,” Carroll said.

The scholarship is a one time award. The funds were raised by a group of students and faculty led by Sara Hadfield, an ESL instructor.

“Kathy had worked here for a number of years and lost her battle to cancer last spring,” Hadfield said. “After she passed, we had the idea to start a scholarship in her honor. We embarked on a fundraising campaign… We raised funds by holding a bake sale, where we raised over $600. Then we got lots of donations from individuals who knew Kathy.”

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must have been enrolled in the ESL program for at least one semester, must be currently enrolled in a degree or certificate program and taking at least six credits in the Fall 2017 semester. Students also had to write an essay describing their educational and vocational goals and how the ESL classes have helped them continue their studies.

“The (ESL) learning center has been a lifeline for me since coming to this country,” Ding said. “It is my safe zone and sounding board… I owe my success almost totally to the learning center.”

To honor the scholarship winners and Christopherson, the ESL program held an end-of-the-year gathering on Thursday at the college’s learning center.

“Kathy was such an important part of KPC and our learning center,” said Gary Turner, the college’s director. “We wish she was here with us today to honor these students.”

Christopherson had taught ESL at the college from 2011 to 2016, after 20 years of working for the Lower Kuskokwim School District where she was instructing Yu’pik-speaking students in English-speaking classrooms.

“She brought that knowledge to KPC. She thoroughly enjoyed working with students who were trying to learn English and continue on their path to high education,” said Allan Christopherson, Kathy’s husband.

Kathy, who died April 15, 2016, was also known for her cultural sensitivity and her ability to train others, Allan said.

“This is a testament to Kathy’s dedication to working with students and instructing teachers. It’s a lifetime achievement and… what (they are) doing at the learning center does make a major difference,” Allan said.

Kat Sorensen can be reached at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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