VCCF Donor Spotlight: Interview with Laura Brooks
By Lauren Graf
VCCF interviewed donor-client Laura Brooks, a long-time supporter of the VCCF Scholarship Program and leader on the Scholarship Selection Committee. The committee is composed of community volunteers and scholarship donors committed to bettering the educational opportunities for students in Ventura County. Each year, selection committee members invest countless hours reviewing, reading and rating scholarship applications.
Laura has been described by others as generous with her time and knowledge, eager to help others and passionate about supporting students through her volunteering on the Selection Committee. As the first in her family to attend college, Laura wants to ensure that students are able to achieve their academic goals regardless of their financial need. She has been involved with the committee for several years, and with this year’s addition of 60 new scholarship readers, Laura was happy to take responsibility as a “reader leader” to guide these new volunteers.
Laura also supports students through the Brad Donley Memorial Scholarship at VCCF. This memorial scholarship, founded in 2009 to honor the memory of her son, is awarded to a graduating senior from any Ventura County high school who demonstrates community involvement, leadership, and/or work history and pursuing a degree in Mathematics or Physical/Natural Science. Laura spoke about her life experience, philanthropy and what her involvement with VCCF has meant to her.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Dallas, Texas and growing up we moved frequently, finally ending up in Carson, California where I finished high school. I am the middle child (the only girl) with an older and younger brother who were raised by a single mother. Money was always tight and many times there was more month left than money.
Upon finishing high school and living on my own, scholarships were few and financial aid was unavailable, but I was determined to attend college and further my education, so I opted to work full-time and attend college at night and on weekends. I was fortunate to work for an employer that provided tuition reimbursement, so most of my education was paid for with the exception of books and fees.
After eight years, I completed my education earning an AA from Harbor Junior College, BSBA from University of Redlands and an MBA from California Lutheran University. Through it all, my mother was supportive and proud as I was the first one in the family to earn a college degree. It even prompted my mother to attend junior college as well and work towards an AA.
I credit my education in helping to further my career and enabling me to help out my family.
I raised my son, Brad, in Camarillo where he graduated from Rio Mesa High School and attended Ventura Junior College and was accepted to University of Washington.
Today, I am retired and living in Washington, Utah with my husband Tom. We enjoy spending time with family and friends and you can usually find us camping or golfing and enjoying southwest Utah.
Describe your first time giving back to your community, whether it was philanthropy, volunteering, or otherwise.
We were raised with giving back through volunteering or philanthropy. In high school, I volunteered at the local hospital and also completed volunteer projects with Girl Scouts. While working, we would have volunteer projects working with local animal shelters, Habitat for Humanity and helping women returning to the workforce.
I was a member of Meadowlark Service League for several years and also give back to the local community through Daughters of the American Revolution.
Could you tell me a little bit about your son’s memorial scholarship?
The Brad Donley Memorial Scholarship was established to honor my son who was attending Ventura Junior College and had just been accepted to University of Washington when he passed. He was interested in math and science and wanted to further pursue his education in this area.
How did you become involved with the selection committee? What has been your experience as a reader leader this year?
I became involved with the selection committee through my son’s scholarship fund. I was interested in giving back more and wanted to help and support the VCCF scholarship program.
I had a very positive experience this year as a reader leader and feel this has helped the scholarship program to better handle the review process with the increase in applications. The need for scholarships is great, and there is an ever-increasing number of students seeking to continue their education.
How do you hope your philanthropy lifts up Ventura County?
I hope to be able to offer assistance to students seeking to further their education in the math and science fields, especially those with financial need. This I do in memory of my son, Brad.