Clovis Community College has formally established the Clovis Chamber of Commerce – Fran Blackney Scholarship in honor of Fran Blackney, the Chamber’s communications and business/political advocacy director, who passed away from a sudden illness in December 2015. The scholarship will be for a student interested in entrepreneurship or business, according to Dr. Lori Bennett, president of Clovis Community College.
Blackney was a tireless advocate of the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurial Academy (YEA!) for middle and high school students and the primary organizer of the annual ClovisFest and BIG Hat Days celebrations for the Chamber.
During Blackney’s tenure, the Clovis YEA! graduated more than 53 students who started over 18 businesses and social movements while simultaneously completing high school on time. Ninety-nine percent then went on to enroll in college.
“The Chamber has donated $10,000 toward the endowed scholarship and that has been matched by the State Center Community College Foundation,” Bennett said. “The funds will be invested and the interest will be used for a $500 annual scholarship which students can apply for each year, whether they have won it before or not.”
“Our local Clovis area high schools have entrepreneurship programs, too, so we hope that since we can now offer high school seniors this scholarship, it will help to attract those students to study at Clovis Community College,” she added.
“We are very excited to be able to expand the number of scholarships we can offer students, so this was a wonderful gesture by the Clovis Chamber of Commerce. It will expand Fran’s legacy in the community and will certainly help future students,” Bennett said. “We currently offer 76 scholarships and hope to see that number grow.”
Clovis Community College, which evolved from a state educational center to an official community college in July 2015, currently has an enrollment of over 10,000 students who are pursuing associate degrees or technical certificates, or are taking classes toward an eventual bachelor’s degree from another institution. The college already has a very strong transfer rate, Bennett noted.
The money that the Chamber invested in the new Clovis Community College entrepreneurship scholarship was donated specifically for this scholarship in Blackney’s name by Clovis Chamber members, local businesses and individuals.
It is worth noting that the national headquarters of YEA! in Rochester, New York, has also honored Blackney’s memory.
Because the Clovis Chamber of Commerce was the first Chamber in California asked to take part in this program, Blackney quickly came to the attention of officials with the national office. In fact, following her death, they said that she had “personified the spirit of the YEA! mission, inspiring us every day.”
“Fran’s passion for inspiring students to pursue their dreams was a hallmark of her warm and energetic personality,” said Sara Moonan, director of community engagement for the national organization. “Fran put her heart, soul and sense of humor into all of her students’ experiences. Fran loved nurturing her students’ self-confidence and helping them to discover their potential.”
“Her impact on education in the Clovis community and student success is undeniable and will always be remembered,” she added, mentioning that the Clovis Chamber’s YEA! program was among the nation’s finest.
So it came as no surprise that the national organization announced the establishment of a YEA! National Award called “The Fran Blackney Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award” in Blackney’s honor.
Her husband, Mark, former executive director of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, traveled to Rochester last summer for the award ceremony and reported that during that event, Fran was described as “quiet and genuine,” as well as “the embodiment of innovation, spirit and community.”
To learn more about the State Center Community College Foundation matching endowment opportunity, call the Foundation office at (559) 324-6484.
Current Clovis Community College students interested in applying for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce – Fran Blackney Scholarship can visit the college’s website at www.cloviscollege.edu.