The Evergreen State College

Scholarship Helps More than One Life

Karen Dhaliwal, Tacoma Foundation Scholarship recipient, is making a better life for her family.

Karen Dhaliwal and son

Karen Dhaliwal’s son inspired her before he was even born.

A native of Modesto, California, she had attended community college, thinking about a career in criminal justice. But it wasn’t until she moved to Washington and began studying at Clover Park Technical College that she discovered human services, where she could work with people trying to turn their lives around.

She also discovered that she was going to have a baby.

“Now that I had to take care of someone besides myself, I really got serious about college,” says the Evergreen Tacoma student. “My motivation was to make a better life for me and my son. Living at a low income level is not somewhere I want to be, and I knew education is the only way to move up in life.”

At the same time, Dhaliwal wanted more than a job – she wanted a career she could enjoy, where she could help others. She earned her associate’s degree in human services from Clover Park, and also did an internship shadowing the college’s director of student services. “It took me a long time to have that epiphany of what I wanted to do,” she says. “But after that internship, I realized that I wanted to do what she does – help other students like me navigate higher education.”

She also wants to enjoy the time she has invested and love what she does. “Someone once told me, ‘If you love what you do, you don’t ever work a day in your life,’” she says. “That is my drive and motivation. I look forward to experiencing that feeling.”

Dhaliwal’s son, Kenai, is now three years old, and will be getting ready to start school when she finishes her degree. Receiving a Tacoma Foundation Scholarship has reduced some of her financial pressure, which has positively affected her academics. “It has given me stability and made me able to provide for myself and my family,” she says. She had been struggling to afford what most students find are necessities – a laptop computer, textbooks, even small things like paper and a backpack. “This scholarship has made a big difference because I used it as a stepping stone to help with schoolwork, and now I’m maintaining that commitment to doing well. This scholarship not only affected me, but also my son. You are helping me through school, and I’m working to help him. It’s amazing how more then one life can be affected.”

Being an integral part of her son’s life is especially important for Dhaliwal, who grew up in a foster family, and moved to Tacoma to meet and get to know her biological parents. Both of her foster parents attended college, which she says was a big influence on how far she has come with her education. But it is also inspiring to reunite with her biological family, and have their support for her and her family.
She also knows that she has support from Evergreen. “When you get to Evergreen, you find out quickly that everyone here has a mission,” she says. “There is not one person who’s just here to get by. We’re all driven – by earning a better living, by passion, by something. That’s why Evergreen is so successful. The energy of the staff, faculty and students is what makes you want to be here.” And in addition to financial support, her Foundation Scholarship gives her emotional support as well.

“It really hits the heart and home of who you are when an act of kindness is done for your struggle,” Dhaliwal says. “What awe- some people donors must be to go out of their way for someone they don’t even know. This scholarship makes a big impact in every aspect of my life. Knowing these people believe in me makes me know that I can do this. Evergreen is where I need to be.”