Jim and Debby Baugh say there is nothing heroic about their support of the OTC Foundation. In fact, Jim says the real heroes are the students who pursue the life changing educational opportunities offered by the college.
“It’s the men and women who overcome tremendous obstacles to get what was given to me at the start,” he said. “I admire greatly their tenacity, their sheer guts. They’re the ones who ought to be held up and recognized.”
Since 2015, Jim and Debby have provided scholarships to the graduates of OTC’s Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program. The scholarships pay for the HiSET exam, which allows out-of-school youth and adults to earn a high school equivalency credential.
“There are so many worthy causes, but making a difference in someone’s education – that’s one of the easiest – and most important – gifts we can give,” Debby said. “These students have to overcome all sorts of obstacles in an effort to build a better future for themselves and their families. And if we can help remove some of those barriers for them, that’s exactly what we are going to do.”
Jim and Debby retired to Springfield in 2011. The couple quickly became involved in several philanthropic efforts around town. They learned about OTC’s AEL services through a friend who served as an instructor for the program. Jim, a retired public administrator, says he was drawn to the mission of the college’s AEL program right away. He wanted to help these students because he was fortunate enough to have a strong support system growing up.
“My folks had the means to send me to college, so I ended up with a master’s degree, a good profession, and a leg up in the economy,” he explained. “And now, Debby and I want to pay it forward to those who didn’t have the same opportunities – the same support system – that we had as children and young adults.”
Thanks to their involvement, Jim and Debby have helped hundreds of AEL students earn their high school equivalency credentials. These students often continue their education at OTC.
Tiffany Hasting, a former AEL student, passed her HiSET exam in 2018. She now hopes to pursue an associate degree in behavioral science at the college.
“Growing up, I had the odds stacked against me – I was in and out of foster care and I battled drug addiction, too,” she said. “But OTC’s AEL program gave me the tools I needed for a new beginning, and the Baughs helped make that fresh start a reality through their scholarship fund.”
Established in 1991, OTC’s AEL program has served more than 60,000 students since its inception. The free program provides specialized instruction for students who wish to build the basic academic skills necessary for success.