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Monson mother of three refuses to let tornado alter her life plans

Posted by Anna Meiler  April 24, 2012 12:10 PM

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house1.jpgMonson's Kelly Couture was determined not to let Mother Nature mess with her plans for nursing school.

“I didn’t want to give up because of the tornado. I didn’t want to quit,” said Couture, a Monson resident and mother of three.

Couture began taking nursing courses at Holyoke Community College last fall, about three months after the tornado ripped the roof off her home, allowing rain to flood inside and cause about $180,000 worth of damage. Now, with an anonymous donation of $30,000 to Holyoke Community College for tornado victims, Couture is one of many students hoping to get support.

“There’s not a lot out there for tornado victims,” said Couture. “I think it’s wonderful they are doing this."

Out of the 7,000 students enrolled in Holyoke Community College, about one-third were affected by the tornado in a significant way, according to Erica Broman, vice president of Institutional Development.

The donation will be distributed in amounts ranging from $500 to $3,000 per student, depending on the financial need expressed in applicants' 250 word essays describing how the tornado impacted them.

“We’re not looking at grades or anything. We want to know how significant an impact the tornado had on their life,” said Broman. “If their house was destroyed we would be looking to provide a great deal of help for them.”

Couture’s situation reflects those of many tornado victims. She received $30,000 less than her total damage costs from her insurance company and many of the repairs, such as getting the house up to code, replacing the staircase, the lawn and trees, will be paid out of her own pocket. A scholarship award would eliminate her need to take out a loan and would offset the hardship of her recovery expenses.

The donation came from the Tides Foundation in California, inspired by the story of Angelica Guerrero, who gave her life to protect her daughter from the June 1 tornado. Holyoke Community College set up a scholarship fund to support both of Angelica’s daughters. Now, the college has the opportunity to extend financial assistance to even more students affected by the tornado.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by April 27 and the recipients will be awarded on June 1, the anniversary of the tornado.

“It feels wonderful to be able to do it and we’re so grateful to the donor for making it possible,” said Broman.

For more information on the scholarship and to download an application, click here.

Photo provided by Kelly Couture.

Anna Meiler can be reached at ameiler16@gmail.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @anna_meiler

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the authors

Students in Steve Fox's Investigative Journalism & the Web class at UMass-Amherst have teamed up with the Globe to take a close-up look at the painful process of rebuilding from the June 2011 tornadoes that killed four and devastated communities in the Springfield area. Their work will also appear in the Boston Globe. Steve joined the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst in 2007 and has 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at The Washington Post's award-winning website.

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