Resident-Funded Associate Education Fund Helps Fuel Further Education Dreams

What do becoming an Excel whiz, learning to be a mixologist, pursuing a nursing degree, and earning an undergraduate or graduate degree have in common? At Lenbrook, they are all further education pursuits that associates have undertaken – and that residents have helped make possible through their generous donations to the Associate Education Fund.

The Fund was established in 2016 by Lenbrook Residents and is funded by them. It provides financial assistance for further education for associates who have demonstrated a commitment to Lenbrook, show potential for a strong career path, and are motivated to strive for excellence.

To apply, associates discuss career goals with the Human Resources team, complete an application and essay, and submit two references. The Education Fund Committee consisting of eight Lenbrook Residents and three associate members reviews and approves applications and determines the amount of awarded funds.  

Lenbrook Resident Cheryl O’Keeffe joined the committee in 2021. The role was a good match for her as she was Director of Student Financial Aid at the Medical College of Georgia for 17 years. In 2023, she became the committee chair.

“Lenbrook is a place where people care about one another,” she said. “It is a joy to see the excitement of an applicant when he or she learns that a scholarship has been awarded,” she said. “Recipients express deep appreciation upon completing their programs for the financial boost that contributed to that success. I am honored to participate in this work on behalf of our residents.”

Chas Wheeler, Project Coordinator, Quality & Performance Improvement at Lenbrook, participated in the Emory University Goizueta Business School’s Executive Management Coaching Program. During the six-month program, she learned the foundational principles of coaching. She also gained an understanding of what makes a powerful question and how those can impact ways of thinking and being.

“It has been a journey of self-discovery regarding my own value and impact,” Chas said. “I have to thank the residents of Lenbrook for this opportunity to grow my skillsets. They have given me the gift of continued learning and knowledge. I hope to share these skills with the organization and the community to create the impacts we all desire.”

In 2021, Kerry Gore, Events Coordinator, moved to the Enrichment department from the Fine Dining team and soon decided she wanted to learn how to use Microsoft Excel well. She applied for and received a grant from the Lenbrook Associate Education Fund that enabled her to attend classes three days a week.

“I was grateful, thankful, and humbled to have this,” she said. “It helped me not lose money while I was learning.”

In 2023, Kerry completed the Event Planning and Management Certificate at Emory University. She did not apply to the Fund for financial assistance in getting that certification, but Lenbrook Residents knew she was working to earn it.

“I think 80 to 100 people congratulated me when I earned that. This is a community that motivates you to want to do more,” she said.

Yalounda Penn, Human Resources Business Partner at Lenbrook, works with associates interested in further education opportunities such as an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or vocational/technical certification program.

“It’s fulfilling to witness their growth and development as they pursue further education or training,” she said. “Since I joined Lenbrook five months ago, there have been 12 applications, seven continual applications (when someone is pursuing a bachelor’s degree), and five certifications earned. It’s truly remarkable that our residents make associates’ dreams a reality. Seeing the tangible impact of these programs on individuals’ lives and professional journeys brings a sense of satisfaction and pride in contributing to their success.”

(Pictured from left to right: Kerry Gore, Lenbrook Resident Cheryl O’Keeffe and Chas Wheeler.)