WARSAW — A group of motivated and determined women affiliated with Ivy Tech Community College heard from one of their own Wednesday evening, June 27, as the group sought to bolster its own ranks.
Windows of Opportunity was a recruiting event for Circles of Ivy, Ivy Tech’s collective of philanthropic women who share a mission of creating resources and raising funds to knock down obstacles to higher education for the school’s students.
Tabitha Gabbard, representing The Beaman Home, told the group, which included Sagamore of the Wabash recipient Jean Northernor, that the school represents her long journey out of poverty and abuse. Gabbard’s success story includes the woman’s triumph over a history of physical, emotional and even sexual abuse that spanned most of her life. A love of academics, even as a youngster, gave Gabbard the fuel to eventually win out over seemingly insurmountable adversity.
“It [school] was an escape for me and I was good at it,” she said. “People paid attention to me when I did well in school. I was the first person in my family to graduate high school since my grandmother and I’m the first person to graduate with a college degree in my family ever.”
The transition from high school to college wasn’t instantaneous, however.
Gabbard said that after high school, she returned to a life of abuse in her personal relationships. According to Gabbard, many abused people unwittingly insert themselves into abusive situations. “Often times, that’s what’s comfortable,” she said. “I just remember waking up one morning and thinking that my kids are living the same life that I lived.”
After removing herself and her children from the abusive environment, Gabbard made a decision that changed her life for good.
“I got to a point where I was doing well and I wanted to give back, so I ended up here at Ivy,” she said. Gabbard said she expected to be treated the way she saw herself, as a member of society’s bottom rung. “When I walked through the doors at Ivy, that’s what I expected,” she said. Instead, she told the audience that the advisor she spoke to treated her with compassion and dignity. “I walked out of here in tears, like ‘what just happened?’”
Gabbard received her second round of thunderous applause when she told the group that she finished her associate’s degree from Ivy Tech in 2015, graduated from Indiana University in 2017 and that she will earn her master’s degree in social work next May.
Allyn Decker, vice chancellor at Ivy Tech’s Warsaw campus, explained the importance of Wednesday’s gathering.
“This event is designed to recruit new members to the Circle of Ivy, which is a women’s philanthropy group,” he said. “Chapters exist all over the state and there are no fundraisers other than membership dues. There’s a rather large sliding scale of membership dues and then depending on how much a member pays, they get so many votes for how that money is used for the local campus. As a group, they meet in Indianapolis in October at a large statewide luncheon and then each chapter decides how it wants to use its money that year.”
Decker said funds could be used for such things as emergency funding for students, supplying an emergency pantry or travel scholarships.
The group currently has 13 members.
“100 percent of the money raised gets used for this campus,” Decker said.