Science scholarships ease financial pressures for students

November 27, 2015

GCC’s new five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) S-STEM grant has just begun, but it’s already starting to meet one of its goals. Thanks to scholarships provided by the NSF grant, 14 full-time GCC students studying Engineering, Environmental Science, Farm and Food Systems, and Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency are able to focus on their studies instead of wondering how to pay their bills. The scholarships are part of a five-year $632,000 grant awarded to GCC to fund the E2S5 (Environment, Engineering, Sustainability Science Student Success Scholarships) Project. Along with scholarships, the E2S5 Project provides enhanced advising, tutoring and academic support, experiential learning/internship opportunities, and career and transfer counseling.

Meet a few of the students selected for the E2S5 Project:

  • Ioannis Diakolambrianos, 23, Greenfield, first year engineering. Ioannis works as a welder in large scale fabrication and construction. He did well at Franklin County Technical School, wants to be a mechanical engineer, and is in school full-time and also working full-time. After finishing at GCC, he’ll transfer to a university to study mechanical engineering.

Ioannis said, “This scholarship has taken a huge burden off my back. It takes away the financial pressure and has freed me up so I can think about what I’m studying instead of worrying about paying bills. I like that GCC is a small close-knit school with really good instructors. I have gotten to know instructors as human beings. My advisor has been very helpful, and more help via this program will be great.”

  • William Girand, 29, Millers Falls, second semester Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency. William lived in western Mass from age 15-21, then worked in construction/masonry in Philadelphia. William wanted a change from construction work, something that engages his mind and reflects his environmental concerns. Returning to western Mass, he had heard good things about GCC and started with a class on architectural design.

William said, “That course was really fun and got me excited about small building design, especially designing homes for rural areas. I’ve heard horror stories of massive class sizes at other schools and I really appreciate having personal relationships with my instructors. This scholarship has given me peace of mind. It helped pay for repairing my car and allows me to focus on school. I’ve learned that it’s important to keep dreaming, to realize there are lots of possibilities and interesting people if you take it one piece at a time.”

  • Katelyn LaClaire, 21, Leverett, third year at GCC, first year engineering. Katelyn works as a peer tutor and in the engineering department as well as two other part-time jobs. After GCC, she plans to transfer to UMASS Amherst, then work as an engineer.

Katelyn said “Being a GCC student is challenging, but in a fun way. Especially in the engineering classes, there is freedom to explore the material on your own. One of the best things I’ve learned at GCC is how to work with other people. Sure, if you work hard, you can do it alone, but it’s a lot easier (and more fun) to work with your classmates and teachers, and everybody else at the school. E2S5 helps ease the financial burden of going to college and is introducing me to people who can help me succeed academically and plan my future career.”

  • Keith Guyer, 42, Bernardston, first semester engineering. Keith owns a construction company. Wanting to change careers, he plans to work as an electrical engineer in the renewable energy field. Ten years ago, Keith studied math/science education at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Keith said, “I loved Mt. Wachusett and I love GCC even more. At GCC, they let you know the programs are challenging, but that help is available. I was born to do engineering, I see things in 3-D. I plan to study at GCC for two years then transfer to UMASS. I have nine kids, age 12-22 years, and this scholarship paid my mortgage for six months. The reason I am at GCC is that I met three men who went back to school in their 40s, got degrees, and now are in professions/good careers. From them, I learned it’s never too late to go back to school.”

For more information about the E2S5 Project, contact Amy Ehmann at or call 413-775-1172.

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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