Emerson Community, North County Matching scholarships make a difference in students’ lives

More scholarship money went into action at the University of Missouri–St. Louis this fall with 50 new students receiving the Emerson Community Scholarship, the North County Matching Scholarship or both.

The students are graduates from schools and districts throughout north St. Louis County with the largest representation coming from the Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood and Ritenour school districts. They are pursuing degrees in a variety of academic backgrounds, including nursing, business, education and biology. Sixty percent are first-generation college students.

Emerson first made headlines in September 2014 with the announcement of devoting $1.5 million to UMSL scholarships for north St. Louis County students. Inspired by the multinational corporation’s generosity, UMSL and the University of Missouri System committed $500,000 to expand Emerson’s program through the North County Matching Scholarship.

Emerson, which bases its headquarters in Ferguson, Mo., received the 2015 E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Medal for Philanthropy. David Farr, the company’s chairman and CEO, said in an acceptance speech: “We’ve found that investing in the University of Missouri–St. Louis is an investment toward the future of St. Louis – a positive future for St. Louis businesses and communities.”

Here’s a look at three UMSL students who received one or both scholarships.

Devin Billups, business administration 

Devin Billups

(Photo by August Jennewein)

If you ask Devin Billups about his path to higher education, he will tell you his mother really does know best.

“She was the biggest contributor for me coming to UMSL,” says Billups, a freshman majoring in business administration with an emphasis in international business.

It was during his years at Hazelwood (Mo.) Central High School that his mother began putting the university on his radar.

“She got me involved in UMSL’s Bridge Program, which gave me a taste of college life before college,” he says.

When it came time for him to apply to colleges, his mother informed him of UMSL’s nationally ranked International Business program and outstanding business partners.

“She showed me that for my field of interest, UMSL really was the best place for me,” he says.

After applying to UMSL’s nationally ranked International Business program, he received a total of six scholarships, including the Emerson Scholarship, the Enterprise Opportunities Scholarship and the Paz Scholarship.

“I chose UMSL because it was the best fit for me. I love the campus. I love the energy,” Billups says. “And UMSL chose me. They gave me more scholarships and financial aid than any other college. For me personally, it’s the best place for a quality education.”

Visit UMSL’s YouTube page to watch an “I Chose UMSL” video featuring Billups.

­–By Jen Hatton

Melissa Moore, biology 

Melissa Moore

(Photo by August Jennewein)

Melissa Moore is a Pierre Laclede Honors College student, aspiring conservationist and animal lover.

“Animals are a huge part of my life,” she says. “If a dog gets shot in a movie, I cry. And I’ve had so many pets over the years. Right now I have two sugar gliders, three dogs and a cat. My dad is a huge animal person, too. I kind of get it from him.”

Moore first divined a career path from her love of nature and animal life at McCluer North High School in Florissant, Mo., where she completed a course in field biology. During UMSL Day, Moore had a chance to speak with biologist Patricia Parker who leads regular research trips to the Galapagos Islands.

“Before I had chosen to go to UMSL, Patty took the time to talk to me and said I might be able to help her study habitats in the Galapagos,” Moore says. “She’s trying to figure out why certain populations are declining and where diseases are coming from. A lot of the bird population is dying off, and people don’t understand why.”

Parker’s advice, sibling encouragement and the Emerson scholarship all made it clear to Moore that attending UMSL would be the right choice.

“My brother goes here, too. He has a full ride through the Opportunity Scholars Program, and told me UMSL is generous and welcoming to students. I realized this for myself once I took the tour. I just liked the atmosphere. I could picture myself here, and when I opened the Emerson scholarship letter, I was so surprised — I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

Looking ahead, Moore wants to do her fair share of work in preserving the environment.

“Basically, people are trying to figure out how to save the world, and I want to be a part of that.”

–By Ron Austin

Fredmartin Mwangi, engineering

Fredmartin Mwangi

(Photo by August Jennewein)

Fredmartin Mwangi was 12 when he and his family moved to St. Louis from Kenya so his father could pursue a degree in public policy.

“It was hard at first because you leave all your friends, and you end up having to start a new beginning,” says Mwangi, a graduate of Hazelwood (Mo.) West High School. “There was the Kenyan community. They’re my friends, like family, but at first I didn’t know anyone. It was a whole new place.”

Now 17, Mwangi is following in his father’s footsteps and beginning his own college career at UMSL. He’s a recipient of both the Emerson Scholarship and North County Matching Scholarship, which cover his tuition and books. All he has to worry about is completing his civil engineering degree.

“Most everybody does either accounting or medicine in my family,” says Mwangi, a Pierre Laclede Honors College student. “I love building stuff, and it was something different. I would build my brother toys when I was little. Or every time he got a toy, I would take them apart and try to make them better.”

Mwangi admitted that many times they wouldn’t work after he finally reconstructed them, but he also teased that that is why he’s studying engineering.

“I chose UMSL because of a lot of things,” he says. “First, it was the scholarships. Also, I just knew I did not want to go far away from my family and home. UMSL has a good engineering program that I wanted to come to as well. So really UMSL was the best choice for me.”

While he’s only been on campus for one semester, he’s already planning big things. He wants to start a student organization with fellow engineering and business students. He also dreams about opening his own engineering firm after he graduates.

“The money has changed my life a lot,” Mwangi says. “If I didn’t have it, it would be a struggle trying to get financial aid and maybe having to get two or three jobs to pay for school and trying to avoid debt after graduation.”

He says it’s also helped him in another important way.

“It helped me to realize that I can do something with my life. Other people believe in me.”

–By Marisol Ramirez

Visit the new UMSL Giving website to learn more about how you can make an impact on UMSL students.

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