As more homeschool students turn to Western Nevada College to align their high school curriculum to college courses, scholarship funding has become available to help parents fund their child’s alternative education. WNC Foundation Board Member Michelle Ketten and husband, Charlie, decided to start a scholarship for homeschool students after learning more about the program from WNC Homeschool Coordinator Rebecca Bevans during a board meeting. “What resonated with me was learning how many students are enrolled in the program and how passionate Rebecca is about ensuring the students have a positive school environment,” Ketten said. Ketten believes alternative education pathways can make a significant difference in a student’s life. More parents are taking on that responsibility. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, 3.7 million K-12 students were homeschooled in 2020-21, growing from 2.65 million a year earlier. “The public school system isn't for everyone and the right environment can be the difference in someone's future success,” Ketten said. “We want to start this scholarship to provide the opportunity for success to a student that may not otherwise be able to enroll in the WNC program. My goal for this scholarship is to provide more visibility to the homeschool program in the community so that others might feel inspired to donate as well.” Homeschool students score 15 to 30 percentile points higher on standardized academic achievement tests and they score above average on SAT and ACT tests, according to the NHERI. More importantly, they are more likely to go to college. Consequently, more colleges, such as WNC, are recruiting them. During the Fall 2021 semester, 60 students participated in WNC’s homeschool program, up from 42 a year ago (a 42.8 percent increase). But Bevans believes many other families would like to send their homeschool students to WNC. “Since homeschoolers have not yet completed high school, they do not qualify for any financial aid that is currently available,” Bevans said. “Some families can pay the out-of-pocket costs while others cannot. “This scholarship from Michelle is amazing and has the ability to assist some of our ambitious homeschoolers in attaining their degree and lessening the burden of cost to many families.” If they qualify academically, homeschool students can participate in WNC’s Jump Start program. This dual-credit program allows high school juniors and seniors to take classes through WNC and earn up to an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. But homeschool students aren’t required to be aligned with the Jump Start program and can have an educational program designed to meet their own needs and goals. For traditional homeschool students, WNC is a place to continue their education and foster more friendships. All homeschoolers have a place on campus; they even have a room to hang out in in the library where they can socialize, study and plan events, as well as a club to socialize and make a difference on campus and in the community — the Nerd Herd. “I love the name The Nerd Herd!” Ketten said. “That tells me these are young individuals who know themselves and embrace who they are. That is the environment this scholarship will provide for a student. While they are students taking classes at the college level, they are still teenagers. They need opportunities to bond with each other, develop friendships and still get to be kids.” For all of these students, what isn’t lost is they are not only completing high school, but they are also attaining a degree and a direction in life while having the opportunity to make lifelong friendships. “I have been working with these kids for over two years now and I am continually amazed by their maturity and intellect,” Bevans said. “WNC provides an environment focused on education, personal growth and space to be who they are. WNC is a place free of bullying, smoking, drugs and alcohol.” To emphasize the possibilities in this program for homeschoolers, Bevans recalls how an eighth-grade student became successful at WNC after showing academic qualifications by testing into English 101. “He wanted to leave the school system because he was tired of being bullied and his mental health was suffering. Being at WNC allowed (the student) to shed the negative behaviors that he had learned in a place where he was seen as the individual that he is,” Bevans said. “It has been amazing watching him grow and take charge of who he is. And he is not alone; many other students have the same story.” With the homeschool population growing at WNC, Ketten’s scholarship is providing a starting point for the college to better support these young students. “I joined the WNC Foundation Board so I could help bring more awareness of the programs at WNC to the community and to help bring more resources to WNC for the students. I hope this accomplishes both,” Ketten said. For information about WNC’s homeschool program, contact Bevans at firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate, contact the WNC Foundation at 775-445-3240 or email@example.com.