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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 5:34 am | Fair 44º


Noozhawk Talks: Colette Hadley’s Commitment to Education Is All About Opportunity

For Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara director, the future begins now for the students she aims to help

The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara’s services are needed now more than ever as the rising costs of college mean more and more families are looking for financial aid to help afford the expense. Noozhawk’s Leslie Dinaberg caught up with executive director Colette Hadley to talk about her life, work and what it’s like to help students and their families pursue their educational dreams.

Leslie Dinaberg: How long have you been at the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara?

Colette Hadley: Seventeen years. I started here when I was 30 and I’m 47. The foundation and I, funnily enough, were born on the same day: May 29, 1962. That was the first meeting of the scholarship foundation.

LD: Fate.

CH: I like to think of that as the kinship between us. I started out doing some event management and then moved into program management. We were just a tiny group, four employees. We’re still small but we were really small.

LD: Did you come to Santa Barbara to do that or were you already here?

CH: I’m a pretty planned person in life. ... I actually had worked at the University of California at the Irvine campus and then at UCLA in student affairs, and I was looking for a change. ... I really liked higher education, working with students, but I wanted to see more of the results of what I was doing. I loved my work there but ... I felt like I was kind of a cog in a big university, which I was, so I wanted to do something smaller. I specifically said I’m going to look for an education-related job, most likely a nonprofit.

... I had a friend from college living in Santa Barbara and we had kept in close touch. She said, “Why don’t you come check out Santa Barbara and stay with me for a couple of weeks?” This was in 1992 and I said “There are no jobs in Santa Barbara, everybody knows there are no jobs in Santa Barbara, and so I’ll just come and sit on a beach.”

LD: And you found the job through a tiny newspaper ad.

CH: I sent them my resumé and they called me. ... I had this interview scheduled at the University Club and they really hadn’t told me much about it. So I go into this little room and there are eight people, and I’m thinking I was just going for a one-on-one interview. I just shook the sand out of my sandals and pulled on a skirt and put on a jacket ... and I walked in this room and it was full of very warm, smiling people. ... We just sat and had a conversation and I just instantly liked them.

... I had been home five minutes and the phone rang and it’s Billie Maunz (former executive director) and she says, “We loved you!” Nobody does that. They say, “Oh, we’d like you to come back for a second interview.” She’s, like, “We loved you, come back again. We want you to meet some more board members.”

So I go back. I’m thinking, “Geez, these people really care.” They have all these board members and the staff and they really care.

LD: What a change from a huge university, where there are just so many layers.

CH: I went back and they offered me a job. ... I had to decide whether I wanted to take a pretty significant pay cut. But the gut was I would enjoy working with these people. We had nothing written down or anything, but they said “I’m telling you, within three years you’ll be back to what you were making and beyond that. And we promise that if you decide you want to be here and you’re committed and you do this job, that we will be here for you.” I just trusted them and they did that.

LD: That’s great.

CH: Good people. So I had good mentoring with Billie and the board, and we grew along together — 17 years later, and that’s why I’m still here.

LD: When did you become executive director?

CH: Four years ago. I worked as the program director for quite a long time and then as the associate director. ... I’m very fortunate. I still think I have probably the best job in town. Maybe me or Ron Gallo (executive director of the Santa Barbara Foundation), I’m not sure. Maybe me. (Laughs)

LD: There are a lot of similarities actually.

CH: Yeah. He’s got a great board and we actually share some people on the boards. For me, that’s the fun. It’s great students and parents and great board members and great staff, but also we have great donors. It keeps me very connected to my work.

LD: Are most of the big supporters people who were scholarship students at one point?

CH: Excellent question. I would say at least half of them were. They all have a personal story ... Some people have also said the opposite: they grew up with a supportive family environment and had the resources to go to college, and they’re aware that there are people out there who did not have that and so it’s their obligation to help.

... The stories are amazing and some of them you don’t know until years go by. That’s part of it, too. I think it doesn’t matter what nonprofit you work with or what you do. It’s about the stories, it’s about that. You probably find that in your work, too.

LD: Oh, yes, it’s about the stories, for sure.

CH: It’s the same thing with the parents of students — it’s their stories, that’s really what it’s about is that connection. That’s why introducing students or having them speak at something or tell their story, we can all find some connection there.

LD: Is it tougher to get into college now?

CH: I will give you the stats I know. Basically, the peak of the baby boomlet, the kids of the baby boomers, was really this last year, so in sheer numbers competing for seats, the peak was last year. It’s still high right now but it will start to diminish. In Santa Barbara County, especially in the South County, our population of high school seniors will start to slowly go down and that’s happening all over the country. They will actually have a little less competition for seats in the next couple of years.

However, because we have such a bad budget situation, last year all of the UCs and Cal States cut off spring transfers from community colleges and they are all ratcheting back. Not only have they raised the fees almost 35 percent in 12 months but they also are ratcheting back the sizes of their classes slowly. In terms of their enrollment management techniques, they are going to start using wait lists this year at the UCs, which is very tricky and very stressful. But, yes, it’s actually for different reasons going to be just as challenging for the next couple of years.

LD: When you say ratcheting back the size of their classes do you mean the freshman class?

CH: Yes, the number that will go through. That’s the UCs and Cal States. Private and independent institutions are actually right now — not the Stanfords and the Ivies but the others — are actually a tiny bit more expansive right now because there are students in the past year and a half particularly that have turned away from those institutions, not because they don’t love them, but because of the high cost ... Community colleges, of course, are being hit by a tsunami of students and all of them are cutting their sections. With our student scholarship recipients, the program staff will tell you about the number of students begging for forbearance because they can’t get 12 units; they’re lucky if they get 11. They’re not trying to get in, they’re trying to get anything. Any class.

... Even a few years ago they had a little more flexibility, but now with calculus and all of these things, boom, you don’t get into it in the fall, you’re going to have to wait a year. So that’s what’s affecting the students and it’s been dramatic. It has not been a gradual change. It’s been huge this year and it’s going to get worse next year.

Getting in, still challenging. Staying in, getting what you need is probably the most challenging that it’s ever been.

LD: That’s too bad.

CH: Yes, it is. When I hear the governor (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) say, and I believe this, he actually came in touting education as his No. 1 issue. I have mixed feelings about him, as a lot of people do, but I actually believe personally it is a priority of his, but I just think that it’s just not the way our state is working right now. It’s just not the way it is. We have a Legislature that can’t agree on anything and he doesn’t really have a lot of power with that. They are not putting education first.

LD: It’s so frustrating.

CH: It is. I think everybody is tired of that with our Congress as well. ... When I talk to colleagues who are running programs in Ohio and Virginia and other places, everybody’s got something going on that’s affecting them.

LD: It’s nice to have those people to bounce ideas around with.

CH: We have a large board, 40 people, and I spend a lot of time working with our board. But it doesn’t matter someone’s political background. You can have people on your board that are on different ends of the political spectrum, completely different ends, but providing educational opportunities is a place where a lot of people come together. It’s a very cohesive thing. Something that people rally around is helping students. Which is very much, again, a positive feature of being here. I enjoy talking to those people of all different opinions and backgrounds. I think that as tough as it is sometimes — and the last year was tough, really tough — it’s pretty much relentlessly positive work.

LD: That’s really nice, and probably why you’ve been able to be here for the length of time that you have been.

CH: I totally agree. It’s much more challenging to be someplace like our colleagues next door, we sublease part of our building to the Arthritis Foundation — a great cause, and yet it’s a longer-term goal. A scholarship: here’s a kid, you give them a scholarship, they tell you what happened and they got their degree.

Vital Stats: Colette Hadley

Born: May 29, 1962, in Spokane, Wash.

Family: “I have six brothers and sisters and then a stepbrother and a stepsister, so nine kids in my family. They’re my favorite people. My mom died in 1980 and my dad is 83 and he is remarried to my stepmom; she’s great.”

Civic Involvement: Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Ventura & San Luis Obispo Counties, CASA of Santa Barbara County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County and Cal-SOAP

Professional Accomplishments: “As executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, I’m just doing my best to run the agency as best I can and to do it with integrity and efficiency. And to try and take good care of our clients and our donors and our staff and our board, and try and juggle all of those at the same time.”

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Island: The Complete Stories by Alistair MacLeod

Favorite Local Spot: Leadbetter Beach, Arigato, Arnoldi’s Café or Shalhoob’s (Jill’s Place)

Little-Known Fact: “I would secretly like to have a radio show.”

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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