Pierre Economic Development Corporation renews its commitment to Learn & Earn scholarships

The Pierre Economic Development Corporation has renewed its commitment for a second year to provide scholarship support to students taking the Learn & Earn program through Capital City Campus.

PEDCO Board Members have approved the $500 scholarship offer to the first 12 students to enroll in Dakota Wesleyan University’s Stone-Based Program for August 2022.

PEDCO Chairman Andy Hubbart says they are always looking for ways to help businesses that need skilled employees. He says students who complete the Learn & Earn program will be ready for professional-level employment.

DWU Vice President of Admissions and Marketing Fredel Thomas says they know cost is always a concern for students and their families. PEDCO members understand the value of investing in scholarship support which can have a direct impact on the labor shortage in the Pierre region.

The program, which began in August 2021, currently has eight participating students.

One student, Brenda Velazquez-Padilla, has a unique story that Thomas shared with members of the PEDCO Board of Directors. Velazquez-Padilla is a student who emigrated to the United States five years ago. Her journey to Pierre was made possible through family ties. Upon arriving in South Dakota, she enrolled in high school at age 16, but it took her four years to complete to learn the English language proficiently enough to graduate.

After graduating, Velazquez-Padilla enrolled in online classes at a state university. She didn’t think it suited her. Progress seemed slow and the online format was not suited to her learning style. Last summer, she connected with her former ESL teacher at Riggs High School who told her about Learn & Earn and accompanied her to an informational event. His teacher thought the flexibility of the program, the internship opportunity, and the affordability of the program was a perfect fit for Velazquez-Padilla who wanted to stay at Pierre to complete his studies.

Today, she is a successful student and employee just six months into the program. She is interning at the South Dakota Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT) and as a server at her family’s restaurant, Guadalajara. Velazquez-Padilla plans to complete the program in August and obtain full-time employment with BIT or another state agency. Her future holds more possibilities than she could have imagined. She credits DWU’s unique structured program with helping her get her education. “It’s a great program to gain experience. Being in a program with a paid internship helps me pay for my studies. [Learn & Earn] will help you find what you want.

For more information about the program or to apply, visit www.dwu.edu/learnandearn. Information is available for students, business partners and coaches.

Image Credit Screenshot from DWU Learn & Earn website.