Students, donors connect at scholarship luncheon

Scholarship luncheon speakers

Among those who shared their stories at UMSL’s May 8 scholarship recognition luncheon were (from left) Kathy Reeves of Enterprise Holdings and UMSL students Déjà Patrick and Amy Cabanas. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Going back to school was a difficult decision for Amy Cabanas. But it was the right one, she told an audience of scholarship donors and students at the University of Missouri–St. Louis last week.

“After high school, I spent about ten years as an executive assistant in New York City,” said the senior business administration major and scholarship recipient, who shared her story as part of a scholarship recognition luncheon. “I excelled at that work. But I didn’t see myself as an executive assistant forever … So I moved back to St. Louis.”

She started enrolling in a class here and there, along with caring for her mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Eventually Cabanas became her mother’s full-time caregiver and took on a full course load at St. Louis Community College.

“School has become very important to me,” she said. “Since transferring to UMSL a year and a half ago, I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA. School has become my new full-time job.”

Earlier this year, Cabanas was awarded the Sigma-Aldrich Business Scholarship, which has increased her self-confidence as well as provided needed funding for classes, books and other expenses.

“I was so shocked when I received it,” she said. “I now believe much more in myself and my capabilities. I have confidence in the future – for landing the job I want and for taking care of my mother the way she deserves.”

Cabanas was one of three UMSL students who spoke at the May 8 event in the Millennium Student Center. The annual luncheon recognizes the many individuals and corporate donors whose contributions help the university and its students to thrive.

Student Government Association President Cameron Roark, a junior criminology and criminal justice major, served as emcee.

“Like so many students here at UMSL, for me the rising cost of college presented a significant challenge,” Roark said in his opening remarks. “My parents weren’t in a position to help me with that cost. But UMSL was – and that’s because of the generosity of many people whom I may never know personally. But a number of them are here today in this room.”

Roark, who has received several scholarships, said that without that funding he’d be juggling his studies at UMSL with a 30-hour workweek, unable to take on a student leadership role.

“[The scholarship support] means a lot less worry and a lot more energy for something I care about – helping people,” he said.

Graduating senior and Student Government Association Vice President Déjà Patrick also spoke during the program, describing a stressful freshman year four years ago.

“I was nervous, anxious and financially unaware of the commitment I was making,” said Patrick, a political science and communication major. “Not only was I struggling to pay for school – my home was unstable. I was about to become homeless.”

She began diligently searching for scholarships and making the most of UMSL resources and knowledgeable staff members to help identify appropriate funding.

“In the fall of 2012, I was greeted with great news,” Patrick said. “I had received the Durand [Family] Scholarship. And not only that – I was also awarded the Gear Up Scholarship. Together [they] cover my tuition and my room and board. I now have a place to call home, food to eat and an academic future.”

Patrick added that she also starts a job in two weeks at Enterprise, where she’ll be in a management trainee position. She’s exploring graduate school options, too, with an eye toward international business.

Along with the students, luncheon attendees heard from UMSL Chancellor Tom George, the a cappella student quartet Tailor Made and Kathy Reeves of Enterprise Holdings.

Reeves is assistant vice president of community relations for the company and serves on the College Access Pipeline board. Enterprise has long been engaged in strengthening college access in the St. Louis region. The Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation Scholarship is celebrating 20 years of support for UMSL students.

Last fiscal year, UMSL donors created 70 new scholarship funds – a total of $3.5 million in financial aid that directly impacts UMSL students.

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