OASES scholarships provide life-changing opportunities for students on a nontraditional path

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

zach bessantU.S. Coast Guard veteran Zach Bessant is an adult learner who is achieving his goals through the James William Kirk Scholarship established by Kim Kirk Steffan.

Bessant, a junior physics major, was one of two speakers at the recent OASES scholarship luncheon. He told attendees about growing up in Phenix City, Alabama, as the youngest of five children. After high school graduation in 2007, he joined the Coast Guard. During the next nine years, he was stationed at various installations across the United States, with the final being Wilmington, N.C., concluding his service.

Returning to civilian life was a challenge, but his wife Olivia urged him to “get into school and learn something.”

He enrolled at Cape Fear Community College to study machining, when in 2020 during the COVID pandemic, he was diagnosed with cancer. Following treatment, he transferred to Charlotte.

“All was going great until summer 2021, when I was notified the cancer had returned with a vengeance,” said Bessant. “I put school on hold for chemotherapy.”

With his cancer in remission, Bessant returned to campus for the fall semester. “I had some amazing professors … and I fell in love with the concepts of applied math and physics and realized they went hand-in-hand for machinists. After school, I plan to either work in the space industry or start my own state-of-the-art machine shop to make amazing parts for all kinds of industries.”

toni mossToni Moss, a junior pre-communication studies major, also has big dreams upon graduation. The mother of two would like to open her own business and establish a nonprofit mentorship program for underprivileged adults who aspire to work in HR, public relations or other communications fields.

A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Moss moved to Charlotte about six years ago. In 2020, she completed an associate degree in hospitality management from Central Piedmont Community College. Most recently, she worked as an HR coordinator for Raytheon Technologies through a staffing agency.

She delayed her enrollment to Charlotte following the death of her grandmother, Lenora Moss.

“But I never lost my passion and desire to further my education,” said Moss. “I wanted to show my children, Cardel, 16, and Cara, 7, my strong work ethic and that anything can be achieved with hard work and God.”

Being an adult learner requires adjustment, especially when surrounded by classmates closer to her son’s age. Ready to learn with her color-coded notebooks and favorite writing utensils, Moss observed her classmates pulling out iPads and styluses.

Feeling overwhelmed, she turned to the staff at OASES, who provided ongoing support and guided her to University resources to assist with academic instruction. They also suggested she register with the Office of Disability Services as she had been diagnosed with PTSD. “By acknowledging my diagnosis, I show I am self-aware and have the tools to remain empowered.”

Moss, a member of the OASES Adult Student Ambassador program, received scholarships through the WINGS and ANSWER programs, and she has benefited from a number of professional development and networking opportunities they offer.

Her scholarships have provided her more time to be an active student and to be present for whom she loves most — her children. “Being there for Cara’s soccer matches and swim meets, and helping Cardel with his college tours. It is a joy to help guide them on their journeys as I travel on mine. I know my potential, and the WINGS and ANSWER Scholarship programs have helped me embrace it.”

OASES, the Office of Adult Students and Extended Services, is dedicated to meeting the unique needs of nontraditional students. Each academic year, the office awards scholarships to deserving adult learners. Recently, OASES recognized not only the scholarship recipients but the donors who established the awards at a special luncheon.

Janet Daniel, OASES director, said, “Adult learners must juggle various commitments as they work toward completing their degrees. This year, we were able to provide scholarship support to 89 nontraditional students through the 30 awards we administer. Scholarships are a life-changing resource, and we appreciate the many individuals and organizations who enabled us to provide these students with such vital financial support as they work toward completing their degrees.”