For CCV student Autumn Brick, who grew up with nine younger siblings, “chaos is second nature.” Today, the single mother of four is a full-time CCV student pursuing a degree in health science. She hopes to earn her BSN and eventually become a midwife. But “it was a real push for me to go back to school,” she shared. “There have been times when I’ve been like ‘I don’t know if I can stay in school. It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. It’s hard.” This fall, she received a big boost: she’s one of 10 inaugural recipients of the Victoria Buffum Single Parent Scholarship, which provides CCV students with up to $3,000 in financial support.
The scholarship is the result of a $1M gift from the Courtney and Victoria Buffum Family Foundation, which established an endowed fund at the Vermont Community Foundation that generates the annual award. The late Vicki Buffum created the Foundation in her and her daughter’s names in 1997. Vicki was an entrepreneur and philanthropist with a deep desire to help others—particularly women and children at risk. She was a single mother herself, and her daughter Courtney was disabled after a car accident at the age of 21. Tom Gauntlett is Vicki’s brother and president of the Buffum Family Foundation board. Unlike so many single parents, he said, Vicki was fortunate to have resources. And “she saw a lot of women with no resources and no help.”
Vicki was an eclectic, curious person with a love for adventure. “She was a character,” recalled Tom. “She just sort of had a little bit of a wild streak in her, which was part of the enduring nature of her.” She loved to cook. She liked to paint watercolors. She cared about the arts, and wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them; among her many achievements was making the Flynn theater wheelchair accessible.
The CCV scholarship is a proud embodiment of Vicki’s legacy, and it represents the Foundation’s desire to have a meaningful impact. “I think Vicki would be very pleased, because she would be the first to do something big if she could,” said Tom. “She would love the idea of single mothers getting an education, and maybe getting a job, and maybe becoming an entrepreneur even, and having the nerve to start a business because they got a little confidence.”
Scholarship recipient and CCV-Morrisville student Emma McAllister is a single parent to a 19-month-old daughter. She wants a college degree so she can get a better job, and she has her sights set on becoming an ultrasound technician. “I’ve always been interested in pregnant bellies,” she says. But balancing work, school, and parenting is a challenge. She’s grateful for the scholarship—”It will help me keep going…and hopefully I will be able to get my associates [degree].”
It’s hard-working students like Autumn and Emma that Vicki Buffum would be the first to cheer for. “She would be excited,” says her brother of the Single Parent Scholarship, “because maybe we’re doing something that looks like it’s going to make a difference.”