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Scholarship Memorializes Former Pre-Nursing Student

The life story of a woman who was killed earlier this year has inspired an employee of Pennsylvania College of Technology to establish a scholarship fund in her memory.

Olletta M. Alford was 33 years old when she died of gunshot wounds suffered in a criminal incident in Williamsport in July. Raised in Newark, N.J., Alford had moved to Williamsport to break out of the cycle of poverty and to give herself and her children a chance at a more prosperous life.

Morton B. Neely, student affairs specialist at Penn College, said Alford’s story and her tragic death struck a chord with him.

Alford was working with the Salvation Army’s “Project Breakthrough,” a program in which clients work closely with caseworkers to become self-sufficient by gaining personal-finance skills and by getting an education to improve their chances of gainful employment. Alford was described as a “star pupil” of the program.

As part of those efforts, Alford was enrolled in the pre-nursing major at Penn College from Spring 2007 through Fall 2008. When she became financially unable to remain enrolled in classes, she faithfully tried to get back into the medical field and worked part time at Williamsport Hospital & Medical Center, reading to patients as a safety sitter.

Alford was described as ambitious, honest and always respectful to the Salvation Army caseworkers and staff, as well as devoted to her four children: three boys, ages 16, 15 and 2; and a 10-year-old daughter. Outside of her home, neighborhood children knew Alford as “Auntie Shonda,” an adult they felt was approachable for advice or just to have someone to talk to.

“Ms. Alford was, by all counts, an extraordinary person,” said Neely. “I was deeply struck by her unwavering character and integrity, especially in the face of such difficult life circumstances.”

“Ms. Alford was a rare, shining example of the best that lies in all of us,” Neely added. “Considering her situation and what she was trying to do, I thought it more than appropriate to honor her life and memory with a scholarship fund in her name for those attempting to attend college under similar circumstances.”

First preference for awards from the Olletta M. Alford Memorial Scholarship Fund will be given to nontraditional students who have participated in the Williamsport Salvation Army’s “Project Breakthrough” and who are enrolled full time or part time in any major at Penn College.

“Olletta’s life ended way too early, but by providing this opportunity to a nontraditional student, we, as a community, can allow her to live on through another person determined to overcome the circumstances of life and work toward success,” said Maj. Steven Stoops of the Salvation Army.

Penn College is accepting donations toward the goal of raising at least $25,000 to make the Olletta M. Alford Memorial Scholarship an endowed, or permanent, scholarship fund. Donations can be made online or by mail to The Penn College Foundation, One College Avenue, Williamsport, PA 17701-7599.

Penn College is a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University, committed to applied technology education. With more than 6,500 students enrolled in bachelor-degree, associate-degree and certificate majors, the college has the second-largest enrollment in the Penn State system.

For more information about any of the college’s more than 100 fields of study, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

For more information about establishing a scholarship fund or other ways of supporting Penn College and its students, visit online , call the Institutional Advancement Office toll-free at 866-GIVE-2-PC, or e-mail .