One Man’s Scholarship Mission

One Man’s Scholarship Mission

When you walk into Randolph Hall on SWOCC’s Coos Campus, you can hear laughter. It is hard not to follow the sound right into the Veterans Center to be a part of something good.

One tall, blond-haired man is always right in the middle of conversations there. To folks who do not know Ryan DeVore, he appears to be just another Vet Center work study student. Quiet-spoken. Smiling. 

To those who know him, he’s much more. 

“I’ve become a better person because of Ryan,” Shana Brazil said, as she watched him chatting with two students. “Ryan is so open to everything. Veterans can tell him anything, and he never looks down on them – ever. He never has anything negative to say.” 

Shana is SWOCC’s Veteran Services Coordinator. She’s worked with vets at the college for years. She got to know Ryan a couple years ago. He was one of many disabled veterans coming to school to use GI Bill benefits to learn. Ryan found his way to her office. Shana liked him immediately. She asked if he would be her work-study student. Disappointingly, he said no. Three weeks later, Ryan returned. He asked if the job was still open. 

Ryan and his wife, Jessie Courtright, grew up here and have family here. Ryan felt a connection to the college. Jessie graduated from SWOCC 18 years ago, he said, adding proudly she was the first woman to graduate in welding. Ryan applied to SWOCC in 2022 and got a Foundation scholarship. He is pursuing a science degree, but is working on a bigger mission. He believes his mission will improve the world in small, incremental ways long after he’s gone. 

“I’m dying, you know. Slowly,” Ryan said, as he started telling his story. “I have organ failure.”

It is an autoimmune disorder that manifested as diabetes and Grave’s disease. Slowly, it has overcome his pancreas and now is destroying his liver and spleen. He’s waiting for it to attack his heart or his brain. 

A person could let that eat away at him. That’s not Ryan’s story.  

When he started his work study job, he learned that veterans club students tried to create a permanent scholarship for vets and their families. They made good progress in 2020 fundraising, until COVID killed the effort. 

Ryan picked up the mission. 

“It’s really important to help the soldiers and their dependents. They may be running out of benefits or needing a little extra help,” he said. 

There’s a perception that if you serve in the military, you get free college, free job training. Some do. For others it is more complicated. Many older veterans’ benefits may have expired, or run out just short of the end of their schooling. For veterans with families, the monthly aid often does not stretch far enough. 

Ryan knows personally, the value of a scholarship. It covers the bits and pieces. It eases worry. It helps to know someone cares. 

His goal is to raise the scholarship fund to $50,000. The Vet Center is selling T-shirts. Ryan says he’s hoping to win the lottery. He launched a GoFundMe effort. Donations are trickling in.

“I’m trying to make the world a smarter place. It’s how I deal with my PTSD and ailments. If I’m going to be around, I’m going to try to make everybody’s day better,” Ryan said.

Ryan developed the mindset serving in the U.S. Army from 2002-16, until being medically discharged. He served at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Fort Hood. He also did two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. As a staff sergeant, Ryan watched over his soldiers. He cared for them not only at work, but in their home life and everything. If they needed something, he made sure they were taken care of. 

“He’s brought that into the Vet Center a thousand times more than we ever had,” Shana said. “He just cares about the students. I appreciate it so much.”

Every day, Ryan keeps a candy jar ready for anyone who walks through the Vet Center door. He gets to know each veteran, their spouses, their children. He listens. When they need help, food or a friend, Ryan finds it for them. He connects them with things to do in the community. When some veterans’ car broke down recently, he picked them up and drove them to school. 

“I’m just trying to live forward. I need as much good karma as I can find,” Ryan said, which is why this 42-year-old man’s mission is to finish creating the scholarship fund for veterans. 

“This work-study money I get, it’s going to go to this project.  I am working for free today for kids,” he said.

Now you have met Ryan DeVore. No, he is not just another work-study student. To those who know him, he is a hero.


If you would like to contribute to a permanent scholarship for veterans and their families click ‘Give’ to donate online. Put ‘Veterans Scholarship’ in the notes.


For more information about the veterans program at Southwestern visit www.socc.edu/veterans, call 541-888-7236 or email veterans@socc.edu.

A lifetime of community building . . . Brookings volunteer has ‘a heart for people’

A lifetime of community building . . . Brookings volunteer has ‘a heart for people’

Karen Pringle Cunningham lives in Brookings for all the right reasons.


It’s a beautiful part of the Oregon Coast. There’s a thriving port and scenic harbor. The nearby forest with the ocean is the best crossroads anybody could have. 

And, there’s a community college where she can volunteer to positively impact people’s lives. 

“My whole career was really about community building. That experience brought me to SWOCC,” she said.  

Having worked in Montana and then Central Oregon in philanthropy, Karen learned about the effort to develop the Curry campus in 2009. She wanted to be involved in creating a place where people could pursue their dreams. She soon moved here, taking the job of fundraising to build the Curry campus. Once the mission was accomplished, she signed on as the executive director of the SWOCC Foundation until retiring in 2013. 

With grandchildren in Gold Beach, she and her husband, Hank Cunningham, are here now for good. Through it all, Karen has developed really good friendships in Brookings. She has taken SWOCC’s community education classes such as Better Bones & Balance, and attended workshops on the climate and local food production. She encourages people to take a class or teach one. 

“There is a big group of people who are very excited and supportive of the College,” she said. “I look forward to putting that energy and enthusiasm together, through volunteering with the College.” 

A few years ago, Karen started volunteering as a trustee on the SWOCC Foundation. Through the foundation, she strives to connect with people who want to fund scholarships and inspire others. 

“I have a heart for people, especially older students who want to go to school and do something they dreamed about, or try something different. I also have a heart for those who need a helping hand to get started,” she said.

Karen never expects a payback, but receives one every time she gets a personal thank you letter from a Curry Campus student recipient of the Pringle Cunningham Scholarship. 

Southwestern Oregon Community College recognized by Achieving the Dream as a 2023 Leader College

Southwestern Oregon Community College recognized by Achieving the Dream as a 2023 Leader College

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College today announced that it has been designated a Leader College by Achieving the Dream (ATD), a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing community colleges as hubs of equity and mobility in their communities.

Leader Colleges play an important role in accelerating the adoption of effective practices within the ATD Network and across higher education. Leader Colleges are recognized for the quality of their work in whole-college reform, resulting in increased completion rates for all students. Leader Colleges develop innovative ways to work with other colleges to share knowledge and facilitate an exchange of ideas about evidence-based reform strategies.

“Attaining the status of Leader College by Achieving the Dream is a great honor and a recognition of the work we do at Southwestern,” said Dr. Patty Scott, President of Southwestern. “We are grateful for the expert coaches, groundbreaking programs, and national peer network that our partnership with ATD provides. We will continue to work closely with them to support students and build a customized growth plan that addresses the unique challenges Southwestern faces”.

Southwestern is part of the ATD Network, made up of 300+ colleges committed to advancing equity and supporting student success at their institutions and throughout their communities. Southwestern has been a member of the ATD Network since 2012.


Southwestern Oregon Community College is committed to ensuring we meet the educational and cultural needs of our community. We specialize in providing two-year and transfer degree options, professional training, short-term certificates, community enrichment classes, and we are the no. 1 job training organization in our region.

About Achieving the DREAM

Achieving the Dream (ATD) is a partner and champion of more than 300 community colleges across the country. Drawing on our expert coaches, groundbreaking programs, and national peer network, we provide institutions with integrated, tailored support for every aspect of their work — from foundational capacities such as leadership, data, and equity to intentional strategies for supporting students holistically, building K–12 partnerships, and more. We call this Whole College Transformation. Our vision is for every college to be a catalyst for equitable, antiracist, and economically vibrant communities. We know that with the right partner and the right approach, colleges can drive access, completion rates, and employment outcomes — so that all students can access life-changing learning that propels them into community-changing careers.



Southwestern calls for Distinguished Alumni nominations

Southwestern calls for Distinguished Alumni nominations

COOS BAY, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is seeking the community’s help to honor graduates who have gone on after college to improve their professions, education, communities, and the world. Each year since 1992, the College has requested nominations for a distinguished alumni.

The College is accepting nominations for 2023 through April 1. To be eligible, nominees must have graduated with a degree or certificate, or have completed a minimum of 60 credits from Southwestern.

Past recipients have included leaders in education, the arts, Native American tribes, business and finance, research, medicine, and the military. Today, Southwestern’s graduates continue to distinguish themselves in professions and innovative efforts to build friendships around the globe. The College wants to celebrate these individuals who have contributed selflessly to improving society. Please consider nominating alumni for the recognition they deserve.

To read more about past recipients, go to Alumni News at www.socc.edu/alumni-news/.

To download the nomination form, go to:


Please submit nomination forms by April 1 to: alumni@socc.edu


Or mail them to:

Southwestern Oregon Community College
c/o President’s Office
1988 Newmark Ave.
Coos Bay, OR  97420

APPLY NOW! Southwestern Foundation Scholarships

APPLY NOW! Southwestern Foundation Scholarships

Are you planning to attend Southwestern Oregon Community College in the 2023-24 academic year? If so, you are encouraged to apply for scholarships!

Thanks to generous donors, the Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation awards nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually to students attending Southwestern. Any student planning to attend college during the 2023-24 academic year is encouraged to apply. This includes both full-time and part-time students.

Applications are available annually January 1 – March 1. For all the details and to apply, visit www.socc.edu/scholarships.

  • One application will automatically apply students to all the scholarships to which they qualify.
  • Early bird incentive! Applications submitted by 11:59 p.m. on February 1 are eligible to qualify for an additional $1,000 scholarship.
  • All applications are DUE BY 11:59 P.M. on MARCH 1, 2023. No exceptions.

Questions about Southwestern Foundation scholarships? Contact foundation@socc.edu or call 541-888-7209.

Southwestern Foundation Hosts A “Celebration Of Nursing” Open House Nov. 16

Southwestern Foundation Hosts A “Celebration Of Nursing” Open House Nov. 16

The Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation and the College’s Department of Nursing invite all nurses in the local community to an open house on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The event, “A Celebration of Nursing,” will take place in the nursing wing of Southwestern’s new Umpqua Hall.

Current faculty and students will provide tours of the College’s new nursing lab. Practicing and retired LPN/LVNs, RNs, APRNs and nursing alumni/faculty are encouraged to network, connect with peers and help inspire the next generation of nurses.

“We have an amazing group of nurses practicing here in our local community. They know, first-hand, what it takes to make it through school,” said Joannie Miller, Executive Director of Nursing at Southwestern. “Our own students are motivated by seeing their success. This event provides a unique opportunity to facilitate those connections, showcase our new labs and simply have fun celebrating our profession.”

Guided by a board of community volunteers, the Southwestern Foundation organized as a nonprofit organization in 1962, the year after the college started. Since then, thousands of students have attended the college using Foundation scholarships. These awards inspire students to achieve their goals and give back to our community.

Community health care organizations interested in hosting an information table at the event are welcome to do so with a minimum $100 donation through the Southwestern Foundation. Donations to serve as a sponsor may be submitted at www.socc.edu/give, and designate “nursing event sponsor” in the notes section.

If you are interested in donating to Southwestern Foundation nursing scholarships, simply visit www.socc.edu/give or call 541-888-7211 for additional information.


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