Shawn Mccoy: Phoenix Scholarship


You might say Shawn McCoy has come through hell and high water. But as far as he’s concerned, the science of water is what matters most.

“I’m confident that I’ve found my passion,” says Shawn now. “What could be a more important area of study than the element of nature that sustains life in us all?”

Now a proud graduate of Ventura College with a water science degree, Shawn earned a 3.76 GPA. He served as treasurer of the Ventura College Water Science Club in the fall 2017 semester and serves as vice president currently. During his time at Ventura College, he also earned a certificate in drinking water and completed an internship with Water Science Program Director Dr. Roxanne Forde. As a member of the Water Science Student Network, he’s also helped plan a project to build an atmospheric water collection device to capture and re-use stormwater on campus.

Shawn sees it all as logical steps towards his ultimate career goal: using his water science background with an environmental science communications degree to produce technical training and documentary films.

Shawn McCoy

To get to this point, the Tennessee native has overcome major adversity. In addition to a diagnosed learning disability, he grew up in a chaotic home environment where his sister suffered from hydrocephalus.

“Growing up without a role model to look up to and guide me to a successful future left me without a plan,” remembers Shawn. “I always did fairly well in school just by using my natural abilities to listen, think, and learn... I was led down the path of doing just enough to get by throughout high school.”

Shawn eventually graduated from a two-year vocational school and earned a certificate in welding. He got a job washing cars, then fell in with the wrong crowd for several years.

One day in his early 30s, Shawn decided to “try to do something better with my life.” He got involved with his local church and started serving his community by volunteering with the Nashville Dream Center. That led to him working for the YMCA and developing a deeper love of serving others.

In 2015, Shawn decided to relocate to Ventura. Originally planning to continue his career with the YMCA, he discovered and enrolled in the water science program at Ventura College instead. After earning a 4.0 GPA in his first two semesters, Shawn knew he had found his ideal fit.

Only one catch: he had to figure out how to fund it.

At the time he applied for the Ventura College Foundation’s Phoenix Scholarship, Shawn was going to school during the day, working at night driving a bus, and living in his van in a friend’s driveway. When he wasn’t attending classes or studying, he had a job working in the Career Education Department as part of a work-study program. All of this and more demonstrated that Shawn was truly “willing to do whatever it takes to succeed and achieve my goals.”

Last spring, Shawn benefitted greatly from receiving the Phoenix Scholarship, a scholarship for re-entry students who have overcome individual challenges — which seems ideal, given his story of redemption, perseverance, and elemental attention. Due to this award, Shawn was afforded the opportunity to drop his night job and give more attention to his studies, like algebra.

“The generous financial blessing of a scholarship helped me tremendously in working toward meeting my career goals,” says Shawn. “This will open a lot of doors for me for employment.”

Shawn, now a VC Foundation Student Ambassador, and planning to graduate in Spring 2019, is grateful for all the support he has received while studying at Ventura College. Shawn is quick to share his gratitude for professors like Dr. Forde and Math Department Instructor Janine Bundy, who, in his words, is, “not just an amazing teacher but an amazing person who makes a difference.”