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IU Northwest News

‘Why I Give’

Investing in the future, gratitude for their own opportunities, drives IU Northwest couple to support students

Tuesday Oct 06, 2015

In her role as IU Northwest’s executive director of information technology and director of technical services, Carol Wood witnesses first-hand the obstacles that students face financially. She works alongside students who struggle working multiple jobs while obtaining their bachelor’s degrees.

“In my class this summer I had students who could not afford the e-text fee for the learning materials,” explains Wood, who also serves as an adjunct professor. “I had students who were working two jobs to make ends meet. And I work with staff, some whom are IU alums, who are far, far into debt from student loans. One tells me that he will be paying off his student debt for the next 18 years – well beyond the time when his little daughter will be in college!”

For Wood, it troubles her that students can potentially graduate with debt that rivals their first-year salary. The high cost of college is a reality that is not going away. Tuition is not going be reduced. The cost of college is going to remain a burden.

Still, there is a solution. Folks with a philanthropic spirit can reduce the burden in other ways, largely by funding scholarships for students. This is where Wood feels compelled to help. And she knows that it does. Her own life was changed because of the philanthropy of others.

“While I was a senior in high school my father lost his job. Without financial help, I would not have been able to continue my education. My town and the college I wanted to attend rallied around me and provided me with scholarships, grants and loans that made it possible for me to attend my state university.”

Wood says these gifts opened up the world for her and gave her the opportunity to become who she is now.

“I am forever grateful for that help,” she says. “Little did I know the degrees I would earn, the places I would go, the people I would meet and the jobs I would have – because of someone’s generous spirit.”

Wood’s husband and IU Northwest colleague, Nelson De Leon, had a similar experience in his own life that drives him to want to help. De Leon, Associate Dean and Chairman for the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, fully appreciates the gift of higher education. Take it from someone who had to leave their home country just to get one.

“As a small child I emigrated from Bolivia to the United States with my sister and parents,” De Leon says. “My parents decided to emigrate and seek a better life and education for my sister and me. I never forgot that and I always remind myself that I have a lot to thank this country for in terms of the opportunities it provided.”

Reflecting on their own journeys that eventually brought them to success and prosperity at IU Northwest, Wood and De Leon have not lost sight of the gifts that paved their way here. In fact, they feel so strongly about continuing to pay it forward, that they are serving as the faces of this year’s campaign to rally faculty and staff members to get behind our students, as they have.

Philanthropy Week, kicking off October 12, is dedicated this effort. It’s a time not only to build the coffers to fund more scholarships, but a time of expressing gratitude and reflecting on our own gifts. Throughout the campaign, De Leon and Wood hope to inspire their colleagues and spur them to action.

“I want others have the opportunity that was given to me,” Wood says. “I want to do what I can to lessen that burden for our IU Northwest students.”

De Leon says that now that he has an opportunity to give back, both to this country and his community, he cannot think of a better investment than education.

“I do not think there is a better way to give back than to invest in its future through the education of the younger generation,” De Leon says. “This is the reason I have always donated my time to outreach programs as well as financially donated to IU Northwest. I will continue to invest in this manner in the future because I want young people in our community to have the same opportunities my parents envisioned for me.”

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