New University of Missouri–St. Louis student Abby McElroy always knew she was going to be a justice-seeker, whether that meant becoming a police officer or working as a paralegal, but her ultimate goal was to be a lawyer.
The Lewis and Clark Community College transfer student just wasn’t sure about the path to get there.
“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up,” said McElroy, of Greenfield, Illinois. “But I didn’t think I was going to have the money to go to law school. So I just said, ‘Maybe I could be a police officer.’”
Now McElroy can work toward her goal of being the human rights lawyer she hoped because of the full-tuition scholarships she has received from both UMSL and Lewis and Clark Community College.
“I had a goal for myself to be the first person in my family to graduate and get a degree,” she said. “And I knew this would only be possible if I tried my hardest to get scholarships so I could attend college and not put financial strain on my parents.”
McElroy is the recipient of UMSL’s Community College President’s Scholarship. Awarded jointly by the presidents of the participating St. Louis-area community college campuses and UMSL, the scholarship covers tuition and mandatory fees for up to 15 credit hours each in the fall and spring semesters for up to two years. To be selected, students such as McElroy must have earned an associate degree at a community college and have a GPA between 3.5 and 4.0.
“I am very thankful for this opportunity to pursue my education at UMSL,” said McElroy, who is majoring in criminology and criminal justice. “A full-tuition scholarship for me means that I am able to be a full-time student and focus on my education. Without this scholarship, my parents couldn’t pay for my college education, so I would have had to take out loans and work full time. I am so excited to continue my education here.”
McElroy was able to complete her associate degree in criminal justice at Lewis and Clark because of the financial support of two scholarships: the Lewis and Clark Rance Thomas Scholarship for full-time criminal justice students and an International Association of Women Police Foundation scholarship in recognition of Alice Stebbins Wells, appointed the first female police officer in 1910.
“I plan on attending law school after I graduate with my bachelor’s degree from UMSL,” McElroy said. “I hope to complete my degree in about a year and half, I plan to take summer classes so I can get ahead.”
Getting ahead is what drove McElroy to be in a dual program that enabled her to attend classes at Lewis and Clark, earning 12 college credits while she was still in high school. After graduation, McElroy took advantage of a 2+2 agreement that ensured her criminal justice classes at Lewis and Clark would be transferable toward a bachelor’s degree at UMSL.
“Jessica Noble, a criminal justice professor at Lewis and Clark, introduced me to the 2+2 program with UMSL and from there I did some research on scholarships,” McElroy said of her journey to being an UMSL scholar. “I told Jessica that I was interested in applying, and she really helped motivate me to apply because I never thought I would actually receive the scholarship.”
McElroy, 20, said that although she plans to be a full-time student, she is also pursuing a paralegal career and starting a new business venture. McElroy started her own dog treat business while she was in high school. Abby’s Barking Bakery produced and sold healthy canine snacks at markets and vendor fairs before the pandemic.
She said her business was motivated by her dog, Skye, a husky-beagle-mix. And her career choice, to ensure the legal rights of everyone, has been motivated by her relationship with her mother.
“I’ve had a really good connection with my mom my whole life, and she raised me to care about other people,” McElroy said. “I grew up watching people struggle throughout their entire lives, and that really affected me because I didn’t want anybody else to go through that.”