Michelle Amparbin remembers the day she decided to change her life and go back to school more than two decades after her high school graduation.
That was Oct. 6, 2010, the day she lost her job.
Amparbin enrolled in Raritan Valley Community College and started receiving waivers from the state to subsidize part of her tuition. Those waivers eventually ran out, leaving Amparbin in need of a way to keep working toward her business degree.
That help eventually came in the form of a new scholarship earmarked for older female students at Raritan Valley Community College, in Branchburg. The scholarship is funded by a $155,000 donation from the family of a former student who attended the community college in the 1970s. This past spring, Amparbin became its first recipient.
"My challenge was to find a way to continue financing my education," Amparbin wrote in a letter thanking the family for the donation. "Your scholarship will provide me the ability to continue fulfilling my dream."
The scholarship is named after the late Sophie Sadowsky Chmil, who first enrolled at Raritan Valley — then Somerset County College — in the early 1970s, when she was 45 years old, said Ronnie Weyl, director of the RVCC Foundation.
"She acquired these new skills, was able to enter the workforce," Weyl said. "And it really changed not only her life, but her family's life."
Chmil's children had fond memories of her mother's college experience, and when it came time to iron out the specifics of the $5,000 scholarship, they insisted it be reserved for women at least 45 years old who are pursuing degrees or certificates in accounting, business administration, financial services, CPA preparation or international business, Weyl said.
"This just opens up really terrific opportunities," Weyl said.
Amparbin expects to graduate in May, and plans to pursue a career in public health administration. The scholarship has inspired her to support other nontraditional students at RVCC as soon as she can.
"I want to follow in your mother's footsteps and provide a scholarship for a non-traditional student once I complete my studies," Amparbin wrote in the letter to Chmil's family. "Your family has made a tremendous difference in my life, and I will be forever grateful."