Philanthropy: Giving the gift of education

Appleton residents Doug and Carla Salmon have a passion for education. They began their philanthropic work in 1999 with the sole purpose of removing or easing financial barriers for college students facing tremendous obstacles to earning their degrees.

“The best way to ensure someone can change the direction of their life and be successful is to make sure they can get an education. The students we support are highly motivated but need a level playing field to make it happen,” Carla Salmon said.

A unique aspect to the Salmons’ support comes in the form of a counselor who serves as a constant throughout the student’s educational journey. Many of the supported recipients are nontraditional students who hold full-time jobs, raise families and attend school full time. Additionally, the undergraduate scholarships often are renewable to support the recipients each semester until they graduate.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh nursing alumna Charlene Reierson ’14, of Oshkosh, was the first in her family to attend college. As the sole funder of her nursing education, she worked diligently to limit the number of student loans she would accrue while in school. What she couldn’t predict or control were the additional emotional crises that would hit her family during her time in college.

“I was drowning. I spent every second of the day attending class, doing homework or working. I couldn’t keep up that pace combined with my emotional stress. So, by junior year I applied to every scholarship for which I was eligible. I am grateful to be one of the lucky students who found help,” Reierson said.

In spring 2013, she participated in a three-week community clinical experience in Peru. The students on the trip helped deliver food and conduct home visits, observed an emergency room, spent time with mothers in the delivery room in Zamacola and played with children at a school and orphanage in the inner city of Arequipa.

“The Peru experience was an opportunity I wouldn’t have been able to do without the Salmons’ support, and it was essential to my success as a nurse,” she said.

Reierson works at Park View Health Center in Oshkosh and hopes to pursue a graduate degree.

Since 2001, more than $1.2 million has been awarded to 329 UW Oshkosh students through the Salmon Foundation. Each year the foundation receives letters from past recipients detailing their current status, photos of their families and continued gratitude. One question that is repeatedly posed is how awardees can repay the Salmons for their kindness and support.

The answer is simple. “All we ever ask is for the students to pay it forward. If an opportunity to make a positive impact in another’s life presents itself, take it. The reward is helping another, not the dollars spent,” Salmon said.

Editor’s Note:  As the publication went to print, Doug Salmon passed away. The UWO community thanks the Salmons for their support and extends condolences to the family.

Connect with the Doug and Carla Salmon Foundation through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

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