Opportunity Scholarship empowers academically gifted high school graduates to study at UMSL

Abigail Wall receiving an Opportunity Scholarship

Staff members from UMSL’s Office of Admissions and Pierre Laclede Honors College joined Louie in presenting Mehlville High School senior Abigail Wall with a large check representing her Opportunity Scholarship award. She is one of five students selected to be part of the Opportunity Scholars Program beginning this fall.

Meet the St. Louis area high school graduates who have been awarded the University of MissouriSt. Louis Opportunity Scholarship. The scholarship is all-inclusive, covering tuition, fees and books, and residential costs. Focusing on academically-gifted students, the scholarship is awarded to first-generation college students and/or students who are underrepresented in the workforce. 

Abigail Wall, 18, of St. Louis is on track to graduate from Mehlville High School with a 4.0 GPA. Wall, plans to major in computer science, is a member of the National Honor Society and was involved in technical theater, soccer and softball in high school.

Why did you apply for the Opportunity Scholarship?

I applied because UMSL caught my interest, and I thought the scholarship would be perfect for the type of student I am. I knew I wanted to go here, so I decided to go big and see if the things I accomplished during high school and the person I have become could impress enough to earn such an incredible opportunity. Turns out, I could!

What does this scholarship mean to you and your family? 

It had been my dream since I was 7 years old to attend college. None of my siblings attended, and neither my parents nor grandparents had the chance to go to college either. It feels good knowing that I took their sacrifices they made for us to have a better future and used it to achieve exactly what they had hoped for me. 

How did you learn about winning the scholarship?

I was in French class, and we were doing a scavenger hunt around the school. We were supposed to find multi-digit numbers and practice reading them so that we would be able to handle reading the different years during our French history unit. We were then led outside to look for a “special” number. Outside was my family, school principals, my friends and some people from UMSL with a huge check saying I got the scholarship! It was kind of a blur from then on. I cried, my friends cried, we ate cupcakes, they got free stuff from UMSL and it was great!

Who is your hero and why?

I would have to go with Becky Sauerbrunn. She’s a St. Louis local, captain of the best soccer team in the world and advocates for equal pay in both women’s soccer and careers outside of it. She does a lot of good and has achieved a lot in her career, and I’ve looked up to her since I had the chance to meet her when I was 9 years old.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people?

Something that may surprise most people who know me is that I actually enjoy doing math!

 

Max Evets, 2021 Opportunity Scholar

Max Evets, Parkway North High School

Max Evets, 18, of Maryland Heights will graduate from Parkway North High School and has a 4.57 GPA. Evets is Missouri Scholars Academy delegate, president of Parkway’s Mu Alpha Theta math honors society, varsity tennis captain, assistant captain of the Quiz Bowl team and a symphonic orchestra violinist. Evets was part of a team that won first place in the national Lexus Eco Challenge. He plans to study mechanical engineering in the UMSL/Washington University in St. Louis Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program.

Why did you apply for the Opportunity Scholarship?

I knew that if I received the scholarship, it could take the huge financial burden of a college education off of myself and my family.

What does this scholarship mean to you and your family? 

This scholarship is a huge opportunity. It means that I can receive a college education without having to stress financially. 

How did you learn about winning the scholarship?

I was taking an AP literature multiple choice test online for my English class, and when I finished my parents told me to go answer the door. I was surprised to be faced with a huge check, cupcakes and people waiting to congratulate me!

Who is your hero and why?

My heroes are my parents. They immigrated to this country in hopes of a better life and more opportunities. Without them and their support, I would not be who I am today.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people?

Despite being a STEM person, I really love Latin. It’s been one of the coolest and most thought-provoking classes I’ve ever taken, and I hope to maybe continue learning and exploring it.

 

Eva Konde, 2021 Opportunity

Eva Konde, Gateway STEM High School

Eva Konde, 18, of St. Louis will graduate from Gateway STEM High School and has a 4.0 GPA. Konde, who plans to study mechanical engineering, is a member of the National Honor Society, is on the school robotics team and has studied engineering in the Project Lead the Way program.

Why did you apply for the Opportunity Scholarship?

I felt like I would really fit best at UMSL. It’s close to home, affordable and has an engineering program I would benefit from. The Opportunity Scholarship offers a full ride to UMSL. You get to be in a community with other Opportunity Scholars and be part of the Honors College.

What does this scholarship mean to you and your family? 

I will be the first to graduate from college in my family. My parents can save money for other things and for my siblings to go to school. I have three younger siblings one of them is graduating from high school in 2022 and one older sister.

How did you learn about winning the scholarship?

I was in class online when someone knocked on the door, and my dad told me to open the door. There was a lady from UMSL who asked me if I was still planning to go to UMSL. By then I had already seen the man holding the biggest check I had ever received, and I just started saying yes to the lady. I was speechless out of surprise when I was handed the big check with my name on it.

Who is your hero and why?

My parents, Jean Konde and Hariette Lwesso, are my heroes. They have sacrificed a lot for me and my future.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people?

I wasn’t as hard working in school when I was a kid. Most people think I was always a hard working student, but I wasn’t. From first to fifth grades in primary school, I just went to school, listened to the teacher and did the class activities and nothing more. At the end of fifth grade, I started to see that I should maybe start studying more. Sixth grade came, and I did my best. When seventh grade came, nothing was the same again. My father got sick and we had to move to the city, and I couldn’t go to school for two-thirds of that year. That’s why I study and work hard.

 

Miranda Martin, 2021 Opportunity Scholar

Miranda Martin, Ritenour High School

Miranda Martin, 18, of Overland, is set to graduate from Ritenour High School with a 4.3 GPA. Martin, who plans to study nursing, was involved in choir, theater and varsity swimming in high school.

Why did you apply for the Opportunity Scholarship?

After I applied to UMSL, I got an email stating due to my academic performance, I could be able to get a full-ride scholarship. Right away, I forwarded the email to my college counselor to apply for it. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

What does this scholarship mean to you and your family? 

My parents don’t have a stable and high income compared to my other friends. One thing my parents told me when I started to learn about college was that I was on my own with whatever money I have to make. So the worries and anxiety of me having to make enough money and not be in debt for the next 10 years of my life were thrown out of the window! This means that I will be able to focus on myself and my school work over the money that I would have to pay for it. This becoming a reality feels like a dream.

How did you learn about winning the scholarship?

It all started with my dad telling me he had a friend who owned a few car lots around the area. He said that his friend was going to bring over a few cars to show me and asked if I liked any of them. Knowing that I was saving up for a car, I didn’t think about it as much until days passed and I noticed my family giving me smirks and hints regarding UMSL. The day came and they showed up at my house in a big red party bus. As soon as I saw this, I cried my eyes out knowing that I did it. I won! They handed me the big check with $100,000, and it came along with cupcakes and congrats from Holly Pope. Everything happened so fast, and I still can’t believe everything happened.

Who is your hero and why?

I don’t want to sound stuck up when I say this, but I say that I am my own hero. I have worked so hard in and out of school to make sure that I would be able to accomplish everything I put my mind to. This scholarship is an amazing example of how hard work can pay off. 

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people?

I don’t have much to say that would be a surprise to people who know me. If someone knows me, they know that I always care for others over myself. And when it comes to something I am passionate about, I will make it my No. 1 priority. Now, UMSL and Pierre Laclede Honors College are my No. 1 priorities. 

 

Candra Mottert, 2021 Opportunity Scholar

Candra Mottert, Northwest High School

Candra Mottert, 18, of High Ridge, Missouri, will be graduating from Northwest High School with a 3.9 GPA. Mottert, who plans to study business, computer science and cybersecurity, is a member of the National Honor Society, the Mu Alpha Theta math club, Missouri Dance Team Association Academic All-State Team and the Northwest Lionette dance team.

Why did you apply for the Opportunity Scholarship?

I actually came across the Opportunity Scholarship by accident. I was researching UMSL when I found an article about the scholarship. I applied because at the time I was applying for as many scholarships as possible, and when I read about the Opportunity Scholarship I knew I had to try.

What does this scholarship mean to you and your family?

This scholarship has really changed my mindset. Before, I doubted my abilities and achievements. Now I know that years of hard work and discipline can truly amount to amazing things. For my family, the scholarship relieved a lot of stress and worry about paying for college. We are all so grateful to everyone that made this possible.

How did you learn about winning the scholarship?

I got a call from the dean of UMSL’s Honors College, Edward Munn Sanchez, while doing homework. It was definitely a surprising evening and a little hard to believe at first.   

Who is your hero and why?

I would have to say my hero is Elon Musk. I believe he’s broken past so many limitations that nothing seems truly impossible anymore. If you’re dedicated, surround yourself with the right people and put in the work, you can achieve anything. 

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise most people who know you?

I was actually homeschooled until eighth grade and only started public school my freshman year of high school. Most of my friends have no clue I never attended public school.

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