The Michael J. Brown Discovery Scholarship offers students financial aid and so much more

When Hannah Work applied for a new scholarship at Lorain County Community College, she expected financial assistance for tuition and books. But as a recipient of the Michael J. Brown Discovery Scholarship and Learning Community, she has received much more. 

“This scholarship and community have given me a group to support my dreams and goals and help me along the way — not giving me the answers but leading me to them,” says Work, who is majoring in early childhood education and hopes to continue her education at Ashland University through LCCC’s University Partnership program. “The activities we have done have opened my eyes to new possibilities and opportunities in my life and career.”  

The scholarship launched in the spring 2019 semester, with the next round to be awarded for the fall semester. Funded by Michael J. Brown — an LCCC alumnus and director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry — the scholarships provide first-generation college students with financial assistance and a guided cultural, career, leadership and community service experience that supports academic success. The goal is to prepare students to make a meaningful impact as they discover who they are and what they can achieve.   

Students are mentored by Karin Hooks, Ph.D., an LCCC professor in Arts and Humanities, director of International Education and a first-generation college graduate. They also have the support of Denise Douglas, Ph.D., dean of LCCC’s Social Sciences and Human Services division, who teaches the leadership seminars and serves as their executive coach. And Sarah Hyde-Pinner, an experiential education professional within LCCC’s Career Services, guides the students in resume development, interview preparation, job shadowing and service learning.   

For Layla Mishkin, the two-year scholarship is a life-changer. 

“This scholarship means I will be able to finally work toward and achieve what I want out of life and become the strongest leader I can be,” says Mishkin, a business and hospitality major and, like Brown, a Midview High School graduate. “The program has really forced me to think about how I can become a better version of myself. I want to finally achieve the dream I have of working around the world.” 

Growing future leaders

When Brown made a long-term commitment to LCCC after speaking at its 2018 commencement, he wanted to support students’ personal aspirations while challenging them to make meaningful impacts in their community. As part of the learning community’s individual coaching, students formulate their personal vision, a statement of goals aimed at guiding career choices.  

Students also meet once a month for a curriculum centered on a workbook called “Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness.” Its primary goal is to guide people with leadership aspirations in developing emotional intelligence and building their capacity for resonant leadership as they work toward their life and work goals. There’s also a focus on being attuned to the needs and dreams of the people they lead. 

“It’s been really interesting,” says Zarai Aquino, a graphic-design-focused liberal arts major. “We get to know ourselves and how we’ve gained leadership in our lives. Even though we don’t have that title of leader yet, it shows us how our leadership skills are coming into play in our everyday lives.” 

Student Katherine Boutell says the exercises, which require the students to really look at themselves and who they are, can be difficult but rewarding. 

“It’s hard, I’m not going to lie,” says Boutell, who is pursuing an early childhood education major. “It’s digging deep inside yourself to find your true meaning in life and what makes you the leader you truly are. Some days it comes naturally, and other days, I have to stand back and really think about what it is I am striving for.” 

Coming together

The first class of scholarship recipients, which also includes Angelea Amador, is all female. Although not intentional, that has created an interesting dynamic, says Douglas. 

“It created a space for them to explore not only traditional leadership concepts but also concepts specific to women in leadership,” she says. “They support one another and end up becoming peer mentors. It creates a closeness.” 

Boutell says the bonds created from the experience will be lasting ones, with the support the students are offering each other now continuing long after they complete their last class at LCCC. 

“It doesn’t matter the walk in life we have taken, or even how long it has taken to get to where we are today,” Boutell says. “It’s worth the fight. Keep pushing because, in the end, your self-fulfilling prophecy will happen, and when it does, it’s something to be proud of. I get choked up just thinking about why I was chosen for such a great opportunity. I am forever grateful to this cohort and for everything they have done for me.”