Scholarships help Lincoln women pursue college dreams

October 27, 2003

When the black cloud of job layoffs hovered over Traci Denney of Crab Orchard and Tanya Geisendorfer of Moreland a few years ago, they sought the sturdiest possible shelter: a college education.

And for these two Lincoln County women, the storms of life certainly have given way to a sunnier forecast. Each has earned a $300 Student Government Association scholarship at Eastern Kentucky University's Danville Center.

The similarities between the two recipients are striking. Both are single mothers with at least one teenager at home. Both want to set the best possible example for all their children and become foster parents as well. Both possess about a 3.0 GPA in their studies. And both have dreamed for years about the day they'll walk across a commencement stage and receive their college diplomas.

Denney, a former licensed practical nurse and Matsushita employee, said she simply wanted to provide better for her children - daughters A.J., 15, and Katie, 10, and son, Jordan, 11. "My kids still come first because if we don't have each other, we don't have anything. But my education is a close second."


Watching Mom, the children have come to appreciate the tremendous value of an education, said Denney.

"All their grades have come up because it's not just Mom saying you have to do your schoolwork," she said. "Mom's doing it."

A 1988 graduate of Lincoln County High School and now the cheerleading coach at Crab Orchard Elementary School, Denney is majoring in special education/moderate to severe disabilities. She is investigating the possibility of caring for terminally ill foster children.

Geisendorfer came to the center via a slightly different route, earning her General Educational Development certificate four years ago.

"This is something I always wanted to do," the sophomore social work major said, "but I wasn't able to do it because of bad choices I made earlier in life."

The former beautician and factory worker at Red Wing said she was "tired of living in constant fear of being laid off. I came down and talked to the staff here at the center, and they were so positive."

Like Denney, Geisendorfer was attracted to EKU's Danville Center because of its relative convenience and intimate family atmosphere.

"It's a very easygoing staff," she said. "Everybody is so friendly. The classes are smaller, and I've had some real good teachers."

Geisendorfer is rearing two children - Shane, 17, and Rachel, 6. In addition to taking 12 credit hours this semester at the Center, she works full time cleaning homes and offices.

She also directs a women's ministry group at New Hope Baptist Church in Junction City and is vice president of the Band Boosters at Lincoln County High School.

Denney and Geisendorfer encourage others not to turn their backs on their college dreams.

"If you've been thinking about it, quit thinking about and do it," Denney said. "By no means is it easy, but it's worth every hour you have to struggle."

Cindy Peck, director of EKU's Danville Center, said the scholarship "was set up for students by students," specifically to help students like Denney and Geisendorfer meet their financial obligations.

SGA members at the center sponsored several activities to raise the funds. SGA officers at EKU-Danville were Donna Hammons, Bruce Lynch, Darlena McKnight and Tammy Obrecht.

Applicants must be 25 or older, be seeking a degree, possess at least a 2.5 GPA and interview with the scholarship committee, among other qualifications.

Currently, 50 percent of the 750 students at EKU-Danville are classified as non-traditional.

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