NWTC alum now paralegal due to scholarship

Returning adult students like Sacheck could benefit from proposed college $2M endowment
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Stephanie Sacheck is a single mother who was working hard to make ends meet.

The Shawano resident said she was working in a “dead end job” and was more interested in being a paralegal, so she found out that Northeast Wisconsin Technical College might be a good option to pursue a degree.

However, seeing as she was the only parent to her children, and all the money was going to pay for food, rent and other basic life necessities, setting aside some money for tuition was not an option. Sacheck initially tried for federal loans, but her ticket to higher education came when she earned a scholarship from NWTC.

“I heard a lot of good things about them,” Sacheck said, noting NWTC’s Shawano campus was close to home for her. “My brother had gone to NWTC, and I wanted to be close to where I lived. I had two kids to think about.”

Sacheck had to write an essay explaining what she was going to school for, and her words earned her the scholarship. With money no longer being an object, she could now focus on her studies, and in 2022, she earned her legal studies/paralegal degree. She now works out of the Heritage Law Firm in Shawano helping with estate planning and other issues.

“The first year was hard, because you don’t know how much to pour your heart out,” Sacheck said. “After that, it just got easier.”

While NWTC has a number of scholarships available, the NWTC Educational Foundation is looking at establishing a $2 million endowment that would provide up to $100,000 in scholarships annually for adult students in the Shawano area. Jeannie Otto, director for NWTC’s Shawano and Oconto Falls campuses, said that $258,000 has been raised for the endowment, but the college still has a long way to go.

“We’ve seen a greater need in the community, specifically to help returning adults in the Shawano area, with some extra financial support,” Otto said. “Because of that, instead of going out every year asking for additional help, we’re trying to start a scholarship fund to make college possible through an endowment, and all the funds will stay in the greater Shawano area and help students here.”

According to Otto, there are about 1,700 students from the Shawano area attending classes at NWTC, whether it’s at the local campus, the one in Green Bay or in other locations. The endowment fund would be open to all Shawano County residents and a few communities near its border, she said.

NWTC has won some money from the 100 Women Who Care program in Shawano to help returning adult students, but that was used up in a short period of time. With the endowment, the funding is expected to be available in perpetuity, with the expectation that 100 students could receive $1,000 scholarships, according to Otto, although some students could get higher amounts. In 30 years time, the foundation’s endowment could help produce 3,000 more graduates, she said.

Currently, the average cost of one year of tuition at NWTC ranges from $5,000 to $6,000.

Shawano has a Dollars for Scholars program, but its primary focus is on students graduating high school, although it has a limited number of scholarships available for adults, Otto said.

“This fund would be a legacy for our community,” Otto said.

Michael Maas, Sacheck’s supervisor, noted that Sacheck started with his firm as an intern as a requirement for the paralegal/legal studies degree.

“It helps both ways, for the employer and the student to fulfill their requirements,” Maas said. “This returning student thing is so attractive to me, because it took me 10 years to complete my bachelor’s. You start out at one school and go to another school, and you’re not focused. I was also in the military and took a four-year break. In that four years, I got married and had my first child, so coming back to school was a shock to the system.”

Returning students have more incentive, in Maas’ view, to be focused and complete their studies.

“It’s something they’re choosing,” Maas said. “It’s not something they’re doing right out of high school. Stephanie fit that mold, obviously, as a single mom.”

With a background in finance, Maas agreed that the endowment is the best way to help adult students, because it is not a situation where money goes in, money comes back out, and the college is stuck back at square one. With $2 million potentially in the fund at a given time, the college won’t always be working on fundraisers or other campaigns to bring money in, he said.

“You’re actually just taking money in,” Maas said. “You’re not giving it out until you have enough with a guarantee that only 5% will come out for scholarships, and then you don’t need another dollar. You’re not depleting your funds.”

Anyone wanting to contribute can give online at www.nwtc.edu/givenow and selecting “Making College Possible Scholarship Endowment — Shawano” or sending a check payable to the NWTC Educational Foundation at P.O. Box 19042, Green Bay, WI 54307-9042.

For information, call Otto at 715-732-3878 or 715-853-2420, or foundation director Crystal Harrison at 920-498-5541.