“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” How often do we hear a version of this Chinese proverb and grasp the profound impact of education and the domino effect it has, not only on an individual, but on their community as well?
In the late 1970’s, Stephen Can stepped into his economics class at Jefferson Community College, unaware of the impact this course would have on his life’s trajectory. It would lead to a global career at IBM, a 20-year career on Wall Street and a life-long relationship of giving back to Jefferson, where it all started. Collaborating with the Northern New York Community Foundation and JCC Foundation, Stephen would create and launch a scholarship program that would provide a full year of college for free to any high achieving student from Jefferson or Lewis County.
A farm boy from Depauville, NY, Stephen’s paternal grandfather was a shoemaker and his father was a farmer. He says, back then, he needed “an opportunity to become successful.” Stephen discovered his niche in economics and it didn’t go unnoticed by Professor Doc Walton. His first job in economics took place at JCC as a peer tutor. After graduating from JCC, he transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh where he got a bachelor’s degree in accounting and then transferred to Purdue University where he received a full scholarship to their quantitative Master of Science in Finance program.
Wisely realizing access to college is essential in achieving a higher quality of life and incredibly grateful for his college experience, Stephen returned to his first alma mater to establish the Jefferson-Can Community Scholars program in 2007. “I love the idea of young, smart people having the opportunity to go to college and finishing their first year with no debt.”
Since its inception, more than 750 Northern New York students have received the opportunity to attend Jefferson for free thanks to the Jefferson-Can Community Scholars program.
Current student, Grace Seybert, Redwood, NY, is a current Jefferson-Can scholar and her College opportunity was enhanced by Stephen’s generosity. Grace says that being a Jefferson-Can Community Scholar “inspires me to work harder to excel because I know the person behind the scholarship would want to see their generosity going towards a worthwhile cause. The generosity of Mr. Can helped make college possible.”
Another Jefferson-Can Scholar, Kayla Perry ’14, President and CEO of the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce (GWNCC). Kayla says receiving the scholarship “allowed me to truly focus on my studies and maintain a good GPA. I finished at JCC with a solid foundation in business and continued my education at SUNY Oswego.” Kayla says the Jefferson-Can Community Scholar program is an impressive, generous scholarship with a huge impact in our area and really helps students on the fence about going to college and may not have otherwise attended college. Realizing the impact a gift to JCC can have on a student, Kayla is glad to support the JCC Foundation every year and is a frequent guest speaker at JCC, spreading the message about the importance of networking, community involvement and creating opportunities in the North Country.
Kayla says, “The best philanthropists offer a combination of giving, both of their time and money, and there’s no one right or wrong way to do that.” Kayla is an advocate for economic growth and through her work with the Jefferson Leadership Institute, she addresses community issues to achieve positive change for the betterment of the community. She volunteers her time at Workforce 20/20 to assist high school students with developing job interview skills and supports the Northern New York Community Foundation.
New York State Senate Deputy Chief of Staff Logan Eddy ’17 was also a Jefferson-Can Community Scholar who majored in criminal justice and fire protection technology. He says being a Jefferson-Can Community Scholar “cinched my decision to attend JCC and allowed me to stay local where I could continue to serve my community and dual major in fire protection technology that would increase my opportunities of community service in the future.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Logan is a volunteer firefighter with the Rutland Fire Department and currently serves as the assistant fire chief, a position he has held for three years. In addition to his volunteerism with the fire department, Logan is the vice president of the Lake Bonaparte Conservation Club. He says, “Philanthropy is giving back whether it’s in the form of money, time, skill set or knowledge. I like to donate my time and resources to places where I like to be.”
Gratitude is a simple kindness that inspires others to pay it forward!
Stephen Can is retired and celebrating his 64th birthday this year. He says, “I wouldn’t have the opportunities in my life now if it weren’t for the help I received during my time at Jefferson and now I’m passionate about giving back. You can’t take it with you and it’s nice to see good things happen during your lifetime.”
The JCC Foundation awards more than 250 scholarships to students annually with the support of alumni and college friends like Stephen Can. To learn more about opportunities at Jefferson, visit www.sunyjefferson.edu/admissions. To make a gift to the JCC Foundation, visit www.sunyjefferson.edu/foundation.
High school students interested in learning more about the Jefferson-Can Community Scholars Program should contact their high school guidance office or call the Northern New York Community Foundation at (315) 782-7110.