Summyr Levitoff: Student Success


Summyr Levitoff isn’t afraid to admit it. After several previous returns to higher education had stalled out, she was somewhat afraid to return to college. As a mother of three now raising two young children on her own in the wake of their father’s passing, Summyr had real concerns and hesitations.

“I was nervous about returning to school at the age of forty and a single mom,” recalls Summyr. “Although I had a GED, I dropped out of high school in ninth grade and felt insecure about pursuing a college education. I’ve tried to finish college several times during my life, to no avail.”

The circumstances and details behind each start-and-stop varied. But the end result was always the same.

“Some of the time it was a purely financial decision,” says Summyr. “Either feed my children or stay in school. There were other life-changing events that prevented me from attending school. I came to a turning point during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with having a dream of becoming an oceanographer and a marine biologist.

Despite her newfound burst of inspiration, another roadblock arose to menace her plans.

“After making the decision that nothing was going to stop me from fulfilling my dream, I became ineligible for federal grants,” remembers Summyr. “I almost had to consider giving up my pursuit of happiness.”

Summer Levitoff

Enter the Ventura College Foundation.

“At this time, I also became eligible for scholarships through Ventura College Foundation,” explains Summyr. “I was awarded three scholarships that replaced my grant funding and allowed me to remain on my educational journey. The funny thing is that I wasn’t going to apply because I didn’t think I was smart enough to get one.”

Summyr got more than just one. She got three—the Bill and Elise Kearney Phoenix Scholarship, the Hon. Colleen Toy White Memorial Annual Scholarship, and the Nicholas Joel Haverland Memorial Scholarship. She also received a newfound drive and outlook on life.

“The money allows me to focus on class and not just survival,” says Summyr. “The scholarship lets me know that people in the community care about other people—and that is nothing short of a life-altering feeling. It’s so much easier to enjoy learning when you’re not afraid of rejection or financial instability.”

During her time back in the classroom at Ventura College, Summyr has also greatly enjoyed the teachers, staff, students, and friends she has encountered along the way.

“In addition to most of the staff being supportive, I was really impressed with the students here,” explains Summyr. “They all made me feel so welcome and included. I think the college is very inclusive and has many programs to help people who are economically disadvantaged. The quality of my life and the quality of my children’s lives, in part, lies in the attainment of my educational and career goals. With very little family and their father’s passing, the support of the community is paramount to our family’s success. It surely does take a village.”

Summyr is deeply uplifted and inspired by all the ways Ventura College has transformed and enriched her own life. She also feels motivated to share her story–and the tale of Ventura College and the Ventura College Foundation–with other current and future students here.

“If you’re a new or continuing student at Ventura College, I would tell you to apply for any and all scholarships,” explains Summyr. “I would say put one foot in front of the other and try your best. There are many obstacles in this world that will try to prevent you from living your dreams. Don’t let yourself be one of them.”

In addition to that rather poetic message, Summyr is also eager to express gratitude for her instructors—and the donors who form the lifeblood of the Foundation and its financial scholarship and program assistance.

“I would say thank you to my instructors who have shown up for us,” says Summyr. “Thank you for grading our papers and providing feedback that helps us grow. Thank you for your creativity in keeping things interesting. Thank you for sharing your passions with us. Thanks for being role models and examples.”

“To the donors, I say thank you for making a difference in my and my family’s life. Thank you for your generosity and tangible display of compassion. Please don’t stop giving. Don’t stop changing lives and making the world a better place. My life has been enriched by the generous donors who choose to contribute.”