OLEAN, NY — Amanda Wetzler is candidly honest.

Yes, she has thought about quitting school. Yes, it would make her life easier now.

The nursing program she’s enrolled in at Jamestown Community College’s Cattaraugus County Campus is demanding. So is being a single mother to a 9-year-old son and a per diem hospital employee.

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Sometimes, she doubts if she can keep up with it all. So, yes, thoughts of backing out from college to have more time with her son and for work to make more money, enter her mind.

But not very often. And not for very long.

“It will put me and my son in a better place,” she says of going to school. “I will always have a job doing this. It’s hard to get into the nursing program at JCC. I worked really hard to get there. I’ve never wanted to back down. I thought like maybe I can’t do this. I just keep going because I want to give my son a better life.”

Wetzler, a Bolivar resident, embodies the type of student an anonymous donor was hoping to help when they approached the not-for-profit JCC Foundation with $6,500 to hand out.

Wetzler is part of JCC’s SPREE program (Single Parents Reaching Education to Employment). She is in good academic standing. She is dedicated to completing her schooling. 

On top of that, financial assistance will help ensure she reaches her goal of graduating and becoming a registered nurse.

“We worked with the donor for quite a long time trying to determine what her intent was and then to choose the student population that would help her best meet that intent,” said Maria Kindberg, the executive director of the JCC Foundation. “That’s how we landed on the SPREE students. (The donor) wanted students who, first and foremost, had been impacted by COVID, and had been showing academic progress toward a degree. She set a minimum GPA requirement. She was looking at a number of different factors, but what she really wanted to do most was help people over the finish line. She wanted to make sure that her support was going to help students finish.”

The donation was split among Wetzler and three other students on JCC’s Cattaraugus County Campus. Coincidentally, they are all nursing students.

Depending on the students’ needs, the money will be used to cover costs of books and supplies or financial holds.

Deborah Deppas, JCC’s project navigator for SPREE, said many students in the program have halted their education due to mounting financial and childcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The anonymous donation – as well as a $2,000 gift from the Jamestown Campus Alumni Association – have helped keep single-parent students at JCC on track to earn their degrees.

“What it meant for the students in this case, is the difference of continuing their college education or not,” Deppas said. “It was that big.”

One such recipient is Emily Holly, who is starting her second semester in pre-nursing at JCC. She has aspirations of becoming an emergency room or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse. If not for the JCC Foundation donation, her dreams would be put on hold.

“Without the donation I wouldn’t have been able to pay off my fall bill,” Holly said. “I wouldn’t have been able to be in the spring semester because I couldn’t get registered without having that fall billed paid off. The donation was amazing, and I’m so thankful for it because I wouldn’t be able to continue my school right now if it wasn’t for that.”

Holly, who is raising a 1-year-old son and also working part-time, said she received a greeting card from the donor. 

In part, it read:

I know you're committed to study toward a future career despite all the current challenges. I know you will persist and work hard. Whatever little help you are getting through SPREE is valuable. I’m glad to help and good luck in continuing your education at JCC.

Like Wetzler and Holly, Teresa Redeye questioned whether she would return for the spring semester. But she knows a thing or two about perseverance. In addition to being a full-time student, she is a mother to a 15-year old and a 40-hour-a-week licensed professional nurse (LPN) with the Seneca Nation Health Department.

“I’ve been a nurse for 25 years now,” she said. “I really don’t know why I procrastinated (about going to college), but I did. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. I finally did it.”

The donation made to Redeye to pay for a bundle of books and supplies, in part, motivated her to continue.

“I was really surprised that someone would donate money to help me buy my books,” she said.

Wetzler hopes to complete her associate’s degree by next spring. After that, she plans on attending Daemen College for a bachelor’s and then to pursue employment as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) at a hospital.

Her personal drive has kept her going. So too has support from the SPREE program and, of course, the anonymous donation.

“Otherwise I would have had to borrow the money,” she said. “Being a single mom, money is tight because I’ve had to sacrifice working more hours for time for school. It was a really big shock and I’m grateful for it. It just took a huge weight off of my shoulders to pay for those books. 

“Before,” she added, “I was stressed that I wasn’t going to have the financial means in time before school started. In nursing, there is a lot of pre-work before you even start the semester. The donation was just a huge weight off of my shoulders. 

“I’m forever grateful for it.”