With gratitude: 3 scholarship students thank donors for making their college careers possible

UMSL students Joey Dordoni, Katherine Bluemel and Kim Nguyen spoke at Friday’s annual Scholarship Luncheon and shared how financial support has made all the difference in their education. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Spring graduate and Enterprise Opportunity Driver Scholar Kim Nguyen held up her mortar board to a packed room as she addressed almost 200 donors, students, faculty and staff Friday during the annual Scholarship Luncheon at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The cap symbolized what scholarship donors make possible for students needing financial support – an education and path to degree completion and graduation.

But Nguyen’s cap took that symbolism a step further. The business administration soon-to-be graduate and daughter of Vietnamese immigrants decorated the top of her cap with the phrase “Bloom where you are planted” and four airport codes – STL for St. Louis, SEA for Seattle, PVG for Shanghai and LAX for Los Angeles.

Business administration major and soon-to-be graduate Kim Nguyen shares the inspiration and experiences behind the decoration of her mortar board and how her Enterprise Opportunity Driver Scholarship and Boeing Company Scholarship made those possible.

They represented the three Boeing internships and a study abroad opportunity she completed during her undergraduate career thanks in part to her Enterprise Opportunity Driver Scholarship and Boeing Company Scholarship.

“There were a lot of firsts,” said Nguyen, who detailed those never-before experiences.

She experienced her first professional environments, her first flight, time away from home, roommates, her first hike, having appendicitis, having health insurance, seeing the Great Wall of China, being the only American in a group of international friends and living alone for the first time.

“These four experiences really shaped me into who I am today. I can say without hesitation that this would not have been possible without the generosity of scholarship donors,” said Nguyen, who graduates into the St. Louis market with a part-time internship at Unyson. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this cap possible.”

Two additional scholarship students shared their gratitude.

Joey Dordoni, a junior international relations major, is the recipient of the Curators’ Scholarship – the highest freshmen merit scholarship – and the C. Rush and Frieda McAdam Scholarship at UMSL.

Such generous financial support allowed Dordoni to carve his own path outside the tradition of his family and many in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, who usually attend Southeast Missouri State University in town.

“I wanted the opportunity to go to a larger city and have experiences with people from a diverse background,” said Dordoni, who found UMSL to be the most affordable option.

Scholarships and an on-campus job allowed Dordoni to focus less on financing his degree and on-campus housing and more on becoming an active member of campus. He joined UMSL Student Government Association, Hispanic Latino Association and University Program Board among other organizations.

Katherine Bluemel, a senior secondary education major graduating this spring, is from Barranquilla, Colombia. She came to the United States when she was 18, speaking only her native language – Spanish.

She overcame the culture shock and language barrier, eventually graduating summa cum laude from Jefferson College and earning a Community College President’s Scholarship to UMSL. She is also a recipient of The Wednesday Club Centennial Scholarship and Dr. King Scholarship.

“I understand the difficult journey that many students go through in order to achieve an education,” said Bluemel, who is a proud wife and mother of three teenage boys.

“It is because of your belief and serious commitment to education that I will be able to graduate with my first bachelor’s degree in secondary education with the goal to be a Spanish teacher,” Bluemel added.

Nearly 200 attendees of the luncheon listened as donor and President/Founder of Casey Communications Marie Casey, BA communications 1978 and BA political science 1978, ended the event with inspirational words for scholarship students.

Attendees of the luncheon enjoyed musical performances by UMSL students Alayna Epps and Lexi Neal with piano accompaniment from Donna Pyron.

They also heard remarks from scholarship donor and President/Founder of Casey Communications Marie Casey, BA communications 1978 and BA political science 1978, who ended the event with inspirational words for scholarship students.

“Please remember our belief in you,” Casey said. “We’re counting on you to become all you were born to be and to make our world a place that touches others with your kindness and your generosity. Your success is our delight. Keep soaring.”


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