Scholarships Make a Real Difference
Almost every single Flat River Junior College or Mineral Area College student has a unique story about his or her journey to earn a college education. Frequently, part of that journey includes financial hardships to pay for college. For the past 100 years, since Flat River Junior College (FRJC) opened its doors in 1922, our region’s commitment to education remains unwavering. Our alumni, community members, regional businesses and civic organizations have financially supported scholarships and enabled thousands of students to earn their college education.
Two of MAC’s Biggest Ambassadors
College students worry about money. It’s as simple as that! MAC alumni Talisha and Aaron Brooks, of Park Hills, (MAC 2011 and 2013) were a young married couple with two children when they decided to attend MAC. Though they worked, college created a financial hardship. Financial assistance came when Talisha was hired as Dr. Rhonda Gamble’s work-study student and Aaron was awarded a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship.
With the help of a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship, Aaron continued his education at Webster University where he earned his BS in Accounting. He is the program manager for US Tool in Farmington. After earning her Associate Degree in Nursing with honors, Talisha received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Central Methodist University. She now teaches in MAC’s Licensed Practical Nursing program and is its coordinator. Now, thanks to MAC’s tuition waiver program, Talisha is working toward her Master’s in Nursing degree.
The Brooks attribute part of their college and career successes to the encouragement of two FRJC alumni—Rowena (Brown) and Gayle Simmons (FRJC 1944 and 1946). The Brooks explain, “Our relationship with Rowena and Gayle began when Talisha cared for them when she worked at Presbyterian Manor as a CNA while in nursing school. They took a personal interest in us and in our success as students. They were so special and were the biggest cheerleaders for our education! They were as happy with our Phi Theta Kappa involvement and academic honors as we were because they were Phi Theta Kappans, too. They loved to tell us stories of their college days as a couple just like us. Rowena used to make sandwiches for dinner, and they ate their dinner in the car on the way to college.”
For Talisha, the relationship was very personal, “I had the pleasure of caring for Rowena and Gayle as a nurse in their last years when they lived at Presbyterian Manor. It was an honor of being with both when they passed. I remember when Aaron and I were featured in MAC’s Alumni Magazine. Dr. Simmons passed out copies of the magazine to everyone who would take one at the nursing home, and clipped newspaper articles about us to hang up for others to see. Not only did the Simmons make an undeniable impact on our lives and our family, but they also did all they could to support MAC,” says Talisha. “From Day One of nursing school, it was my goal to come back to MAC to teach, and I finally have! I am so honored to take my nursing students around campus each year to show them the Simmons’ recognition brick that is adjacent to ours in the Quadrangle. I love to tell their amazing story as we tour the Simmons Allied Health Lab and other places on campus where the Simmons left their MAC legacy. I explain how their contributions still impact MAC student education today.”
For their classroom excellence and leadership roles in PTK and the Student Nurses Association, Talisha and Aaron earned numerous awards. Both graduated from the MAC Honors Program and received MCCA Student Leadership Awards. In addition to his Phi Theta Kappa scholarship honors, Aaron was a member of the All-Missouri Academic Team. They both graduated with honors and are the only married couple to each receive MAC’s Student of the Year in Leadership and Campus Service for two years, 2011 and 2013.
Because of their on-campus experiences, the Brooks are some of MAC’s biggest cheerleaders. Talisha recalls, “MAC really does care about its students. MAC president, Dr. Kurtz, knew us by name; MAC Foundation members championed for us; and the instructors inspired us. Dr. Rhonda Gamble was my favorite teacher. It was a pleasure to be her student worker because she was a huge inspiration and sparked my love for all things pathophysiology related. She is the reason I knew I was meant to teach and why I wanted to teach at MAC. One of my most treasured life milestones was the first time I taught in ‘Dr. Gamble’s’ lecture hall where I previously sat as her student.”
Aaron adds, “MAC instructors take an interest in helping adults who return to school. Stephanie Campbell was a phenomenal instructor and academic advisor. She understood that working full-time and being a parent required me to have a non-traditional class schedule. She helped find an academic plan that worked into my life. Then, I served two terms as president of the MAC Lambda Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. We had amazing advisors: Emily Murdock, Denise Wright, and Jenny Beck. I had the opportunity to attend leadership conferences where I developed leadership skills and friendships that will last a lifetime. Now, as a working professional, I even more realize the pivotal role PTK played in honing my leadership skills and collaborating with now great friends across the state and locally.”
Like many alumni, Aaron’s family attended MAC for generations. He says, “The Eaves and Brooks family have been in St. Francois County for five generations and most of us still live here. Four generations have attended MAC. My Grandma Patricia Eaves started our ‘MAC trend’ in the early 1970s. My mom, Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Eaves, was the second generation and graduated in 1977 with her LPN degree. She retired in 2018 after 41 years of service as a nurse with 20 years as ‘Nurse Key’ in the Central School District. My dad, Stephen Brooks, graduated in 2014. It was a blast when Dad and I took Lynne Wisdom’s Marketing class together. We had a great time connecting and working together with our marketing team for the class. Then, Talisha and I are the third generation. And, we’re exceptionally proud of the fourth generation who is our daughter, Grace. She began her MAC education at 14 and is currently in her second semester and maintaining a 4.0 GPA in both her MAC classes and her advanced STEM academy high school classes.”
Talisha and Aaron always remember how unnerving it was to start college. “We took a huge step to start college as an investment in our family’s future. We didn’t even know where or how to start. Thankfully, MAC employees helped us. Today, we try to give back in that same way. When we hear people say they would like to start college and don’t know how to start, we jump right in with encouraging words and offers to help get them started.”
Outside the workplace, the Brooks family enjoys traveling, cooking, hobbies, and family time. Service to the community is very important to them, too. For the past nine years, they have volunteered at Shared Blessings Transitional Housing Shelter—where Aaron helps to cook for the shelter’s annual Thanksgiving Feast.
The story Talisha and Aaron tell represents thousands of FRJC and MAC students who utilized financial assistance to complete their college educations and lead successful personal and professional lives.
To our alumni…Regardless of where you are in your personal or professional life, remember there are always others coming behind you—studying in school, acquiring job skills, or learning to be productive members of society. As alumni, consider uplifting the next generation with your generosity through scholarship and financial support, mentoring opportunities, or simply getting to know current MAC students and employees.