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Inspired to Change Lives, the Longs Designed the Way

Patricia Long stands with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren to her left and her husband, James, to her right.

Tamsin FlemingTamsin Fleming
December 07, 2023

Soon after moving to Denver and securing a teaching position, Patricia Long, M.A. ’76, had a student in her classroom with special needs. Although she was prepared to teach students who didn’t need extra support, she wasn’t sure how to properly provide for a student who did. 

“I had not a single clue how to help him,” said Patricia Long, “University of Northern Colorado was well known for their Special Education masters, that’s why I went. I needed a master’s to get a job, and I really needed to know more about kids with special needs.” 

Pursuing a career in educating students with disabilities was a catalyst for both Patricia Long and her husband, James, philanthropic interests. Seeing the gap in support for students with disabilities opened their eyes to the other areas for improvement in the education system. 

Any student who is not adequately supported is going to face an uphill battle to succeed. Through their work mentoring children with the Challenge Foundation, which helps students break the cycle of poverty through educational opportunities, the Longs have witnessed this issue firsthand. 

Mentoring a child from middle school through to high school graduation for the past seven years, the Longs have seen several incredibly smart, capable students go on to earn full rides to college, only to drop out because there was a lack of resources for them when they got to campus. 

“I just think it’s really important that all of our kids of color are able to relate to their teachers as a person of color,” said Patricia Long. 

The lack of representation throughout grade levels and lack of support at some universities is at the crux of the Longs giving to UNC. 

Having started out making gifts here and there to different funds ranging from the Music program to the UNC scholarship fund, this year the Longs decided to take it to the next level. They created a scholarship fund to more directly impact college students who come from underrepresented backgrounds. 

This scholarship is designed to help first-generation students seeking teacher licensure who require financial assistance with a preference for students who are working while pursuing their degree. The Longs are excited to see how they can make a meaningful difference in the community.  

They see this scholarship as an investment not only in the lives of the students who are awarded funding but also the countless future students’ lives they will impact as educators. 

With financial support from their scholarship and the institutional support that UNC provides, the Longs are hopeful that students will be empowered to succeed in their pursuit of higher education. 

Supporting the future of education in Greeley is somewhat of a family value for the entire Long family. The Longs’ son and daughter-in-law, Eric ‘01 and Amy ‘01, have worked in Greeley schools for 20 years. They both support Bears by hosting UNC student teachers almost every year. At every step in a student’s journey, the Long family is here to help their fellow Bears and continue improving the education system. 

For the Longs, this scholarship is a natural progression for their giving. Patricia Long credits her huband James’s success as a certified public accountant with enabling them to pay it forward to the students pursuing education at UNC. 

“We have to give back because we’ve been so blessed,” said Patricia Long. 

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