West meets de Klerk

Photo courtsey of Kimberly West
NIACC student Kimberly West meets F.W. de Klerk, former South African president, during his visit to campus on September 19, as part of the Leadership Series. de Klerk's efforts to end apartheid helped make it possible for West to bring two South African teens to America to perform ballroom dancing and compete in the Feather Awards at the Beverly Hills Hilton. West was able to meet de Klerk and thank him for his efforts. Here West presents de Klerk with a photo scrapbook of the kids' trip at a special V.I.P. dinner at NIACC.

Andrew Nickerson
Entertainment Editor

All it took was some miracles. Kimberly West, a NIACC sophomore and business owner of Harmony4 Personality Styles Seminars, brought two teenagers from the township of Soweto, South Africa to the United States to perform in a ballroom dancing competition at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel for the Feather Awards Ceremony in 1995.

West, who became interested in ballroom dancing 15 years ago while watching a ballroom competition on television, came across a newspaper article from the Los Angeles Times about young people ballroom dancing in South Africa.

"I wanted to find the kids and give them money," West said. "But I couldn't find them. So I contacted the author of the LA Times article. Getting in touch with him was very difficult. Actually speaking to him on the phone in Paris was remarkable. It was the beginning of a series of what I consider to be miracles."

It was then that West gave a money donation to the author of the LA Times. He then hand delivered West's donation to the kids.

The two teenagers that performed at the Beverly Hills Hilton were Molaodi Machitje and his partner Gugulethu Nkosi, who were both 13 at the time. Their instructor was Mike Settle.

"I gave the two teenagers pictures of myself," West said. "I told them a little bit about myself, that I was a ballroom dancer and that I live in the United States. I encouraged them and thought what they were doing was great. A great way to stay out of trouble."

West said that before she contacted the kids, she was very interested in the events of South Africa and former president F.W. de Klerk.

"I was very, very interested in what was going on with South Africa at that time," West said. "This was happening right before their historic elections. I followed the elections very closely and I knew that he was responsible for opening up the relationship between the United States and South Africa."

West said she knew that de Klerk was responsible for the United States and South Africa beginning to communicate openly with each other.

"I wanted Mr. de Klerk to know about the kids. I wanted to give him a scrapbook so that he could see with his own eyes about this wonderful story that happened really as a result of his efforts," West said. "I also knew we had mutal South African friends in the former West Coast Consulate General."

When Molaodi and Gugulethu came over the United States in June of 1995, they stayed with West at her residence in Pasadena, California.

"It was nothing short of a miracle to bring those kids to the states," West said. "I had to find them which was difficult. Second of all, I had to coordinate with the West Coast Consulate General of South Africa and get their passports."

West said that the kids lived in a township that didn't have any hot running water, trees or playgrounds, in a shack on a dusty, dirty street.

When Moladoi and Gugulethu performed for the Feather Awards, it was an international ballroom competition.

"Based on my recommendation and one still photograph, the producer of that show asked to have them perform and represent Africa." West said. "They were the youngest and only blacks. They became stars in South Africa and were famous."

West said that Moladoi and Gugulethu's performance was one of the opening acts of the show. She also said that the two kids learned ballroom dancing by taking lessons at the local YMCA in Soweto.

Both Moladoi and Gugulethu have won many trophies.

"Moladoi has fulfilled one of his dreams," West said. "He's become a professional ballroom dancer. He thinks his American trip helped him accomplish that goal. He now wants to come to the United States. I'm just in the beginning process of trying to get him to come to NIACC and that would be my dream."

Students should monitor the extent of loan debt

Amber Johanson Staff Reporter Many college students depend mostly or even solely on loans to pay for their college expenses. The strain of these loans and their interest are not always felt until after the student's schooling is over. Some students look at a loan as free cash for now and do not even think about when and how they must repay the money.

This causes too many students to be in high debt when leaving college.

"We try to encourage students to borrow conservatively," Mary Bloomingdale, Financial Aid director/Scholarship chairperson at NIACC, said.

Bloomingdale said NIACC also tries hard to educate students about student loans through entrance and exit sessions about their personal loans.

"The entrance counseling session is to help the student understand the debt," Bloomingdale said.

Through the help of educational programs like these, the student debt after leaving NlACC has gone down in the last few years.

"The average student debt when leaving NIACC is under $5,000," Bloomingdale said. There are other ways to pay tor the rising costs for continuing education.

Freshman Matt McFarlane has received a Stafford Loan as well as scholarships to pay for his schooling here at NIACC. McFarlane said he plans to start paying for college when he gets out of school and has a job, or maybe sooner. When asked about how much debt he feels he will have when graduating NIACC, "I have no idea," said McFarlane, "hopefully not much." One of the best ways to pay is through scholarships and grants because students do not have to pay the money back.

There are several scholarships available here at NIACC from special talent scholarships to departmental scholarships.

The best way to find out about these scholarships is in the Financial Aid Office here on campus or on the NIACC homepage where applications and information about the scholarships are available.

The applications should be out at the end of September.

Students may also want to look on-line at a scholarship search.

Bloomingdale suggested going to http://www.fastweb.com.

Students also receive grants from the government according to their finanical need after filling out the FAFSA.

There are also work study programs that the student may qualify for to earn money towards their educations.

In these work study programs, the student works on or off campus through the school. "Having a part-tme job helps to avoid loans," Bloomingdale said.

6 Signs That a Scholarship Is a Scam

When someone says:

1. The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.

2. You can't get this information anywhere else. 3. May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?

4. We'll do all of the work.

5. The scholarship will cost some money.

6. You've been selected by a "National Foundation" to receive a scholarship, or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.

Average Debt of Students Leaving NIACC

1997 - $5,888 1998 - $5,783 1999 - $5,530 2000 - $4,999 Information provided by Mary Bloomingdale, Financial Aid Director/Scholarship Chairperson at NIACC.

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