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Columbia Learning Center rakes in $140,000 with annual fundraising dinner and auction

COLUMBIA LEARNING CENTER PHOTO - Sen. Betsy Johnson (left) and Kyla Tompkins address the crowd at the sold out Black Tie & Blue Jeans fundraising event last Saturday, Aug. 5 in Deer Island.It was a record breaking week for the Columbia Learning Center.

Last Saturday, Aug. 5, the center's annual Black Tie & Blue Jeans Summer Social and Auction raked in $140,000 for the nonprofit center's Chance to Become scholarship program.

The annual fundraiser at the Deer Island Stock Ranch brought in the most money ever received at a Black Tie & Blue Jeans event.

Each year, eligible students who don't meet the requirements for traditional scholarships, are selected to receive $5,000 over two years, to use toward educational expenses at a college or university, to earn a degree or professional trade certificate.

Students across all five school districts in the county receive the scholarships each year, based on teacher nominations. The scholarships cannot be applied for.

"As a young woman, I was given a chance to prove I had something to give to the world," Kyla Tompkins, a 2009 scholarship recipient, shared Saturday during the sold out fundraising event.

Tompkins was a guest at this year's event and gave her personal account of how the Chance to Become scholarship helped her attend Portland State University to earn her masters degree in sociology. She said since she started studying sociology, she's developed a passion for supporting youth who face barriers to higher education, like those who are LGBTQ, first generation college students, women and racial and ethnic minorities.

"Thank you for caring about students who do not yet have enough to get where they want to be in life," Tompkins told donors, who paid between $60-$75 each for tickets to the event.

Tompkins was nominated for the scholarship by one of her St. Helens High School teachers, Ron Barnett.

Marion Christensen, president of Columbia Learning Center's board of directors, said the annual fundraiser is the backbone of the scholarship program, which provides opportunities to students who might otherwise be passed over.

"Our community of donors and volunteers is incred-

ible," Christensen stated in a news release. "Black Tie wouldn't exist without them, and without Black Tie, we wouldn't be able to give so many students a Chance to Become."

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