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UC Senior Awarded $20,000 for Her Dedication to Teaching Young Children

Sandy Lemmink has transformed her own life – from high school dropout to future teacher.

Date: 5/20/2013 7:30:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
“From an early age, I knew I always wanted to teach.”
Sandy Lemmink
Sandy Lemmink


After her school experience took its own twists and turns, 35-year-old Sandy Lemmink, a University of Cincinnati senior majoring in early childhood education, is finally achieving her dreams. She’s getting her teaching experience in the classroom this fall, as she looks ahead to graduating next spring. And because of her passion for teaching – as well as her academic excellence – an honor from the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) will ease the financial challenges this wife and mother of three has endured on this journey.

Lemmink is the 2013 recipient of the Pearl M. Wright Award, which recognizes an outstanding UC senior’s commitment to teaching young children. The $20,000 award can be applied toward tuition and other college expenses as well as housing and living costs.

A CECH tradition since 1999, the Pearl M. Wright Award comes from a $660,000 endowment established by Kathryn E. Wright, named in memory of her sister. Both women graduated from CECH in the 1920s, dedicated their careers to education and shared a home in Clifton.

Pearl M. Wright spent 30 years working for Clifton School and was principal when she retired in 1957. Kathryn Wright dedicated much of her career to working with blind and visually impaired children at Bloom Junior High School, and later worked at Kirby Road School before taking early retirement to care for her ailing father.

Pearl M. Wright was 96 years old when she died in 1990. Kathryn’s will was written in 1992, four years prior to her death at age 95. Her will established the award as a tribute to her sister, specifying that the annual award honor a UC senior who “best exemplifies high moral and academic standards of a primary teacher – who is sensitive, loving and understanding of little children.”

Sandy Lemmink

Lemmink was selected for the award from among 17 applicants and seven finalists. In addition to their outstanding dedication to children, applicants must have a 3.4 grade point average (GPA) or higher to be considered for the award.

Lemmink transitioned to CECH after graduating magna cum laude from UC Blue Ash College in 2012. A resident of Milford, she’s completing her bachelor’s degree through the education cohort at UC East in Clermont County.

This, after Lemmink initially got married, dropped out of high school in northern Kentucky (earning her General Education Development diploma – GED) and became a teen mom to daughter Jordan (now 18) when the family moved to Colorado. “My then-husband was in the military. From Colorado, we moved to Texas, then moved to Cincinnati and then divorced.”

She later met and eventually married a UC alum, Chad Lemmink, who at the time was attending UC Blue Ash College and later earned his bachelor’s degree in nutrition from the UC College of Allied Health Sciences. The family then moved to Florida for four years while Chad attended chiropractic school.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, but because of the path that I chose – I didn’t have a high school or marketing degree – I worked in sales. I was good at it and I was able to support my daughter, but then the economy took a downturn and I got laid off,” says Lemmink.

“I was five-and-a-half months pregnant (with daughter Payton) when I got laid off, and I just told Chad, ‘I want to be with my family.’ So, I took a small job at my local church and provided day care out of my home.”

Lemmink says that’s when that dream of teaching became more focused. She wanted to work with young children during the early years, when learning is fun and exciting and new.

“I wanted to be there at that foundational moment. I saw how important that moment was from my own shortfalls,” says Lemmink.

The couple moved back to Cincinnati in January 2010, and Lemmink says that she told her husband it was now her turn to achieve her college degree. She became a mom again to her son, Carter, just as she was completing her associate’s degree at UC Blue Ash. “I remember that I was having contractions when I went in to take a quiz. I delivered Carter the next morning.”

Despite the challenges on her pathway to her bachelor’s degree, Lemmink says she has been very fortunate, thanks to the support of her university, including the Pearl M. Wright Award.

“Between grants and scholarships, my education has been paid for. But I had to take out loans to cover the two kids in child care. That costs $170 a week for just one child alone! The Pearl M. Wright Award will be a huge relief as a result. I don’t have to rack up a large debt in child care while we’re still working to get Chad established as a chiropractor.”

Lemmink is also a recipient of the CECH Hazel N. Kemp Scholarship, which provides scholarships for students who concentrate their studies in the field of early childhood education. The scholarship fund was established in January 1990 by the estate of Hazel N. Kemp.  Kemp, a graduate from UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (’27) and CECH (’28), was a longtime teacher of early childhood education and dedicated much of her career to teaching children in Avondale.

Lemmink also benefitted from $2,100 annually in a transition scholarship. The scholarship awards are for qualifying, high-achieving, associate-degree graduates from UC Blue Ash or UC Clermont colleges who are transitioning into a bachelor’s degree program at UC.

She’ll start her student teaching experience at Pattison Elementary in Milford this fall.

In addition to Lemmink’s $20,000 Pearl M. Wright award, two runner-up awards and four additional finalist awards were also distributed, bringing the total Pearl M. Wright funding awarded this year to $32,000.

“The honor of the award also means so much to me,” says Lemmink. “It’s wonderful to know that all of my passion and my hard work are being recognized. It solidifies that what I’m doing is the right thing, and that other people recognize that, too.”

Pearl M. Wright Runner-Up Awards (Individual awards of $3,500)

  • Nicole Ferry, Cincinnati
  • Johnneca Johnson, Cincinnati

Pearl M. Wright Finalist Awards (Individual awards of $1,250)

  • Caitlin Dates, Cincinnati
  • Beth Morand, Cincinnati
  • Theresa Newcomer, Amelia
  • Chelsea Welch, Sheffield Lake, Ohio
UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services has been dedicated to excellence in teaching for more than a century. With more than 32,000 alumni, 5,300 undergraduate and graduate students and 150 faculty and staff, the college prepares students to work in diverse communities, provides continual professional development and fosters education leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.

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