Scholarship Breakfast celebrates the impact donors make on the lives of students
The event served as an opportunity to recognize and express gratitude for the contributions of scholarship donors to the mission of the university.
“The people who are helping us transform lives are the people that are sitting right here in this room today,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said during brief remarks. “When we take a look at that transformation, it’s also about being able to afford that high quality education. We keep our costs low here, and in fact, we’re recognized by St. Louis Graduates as one of only universities in Missouri actually decreasing student loan debt at graduation. And you know how we can do that? Hard work and your support. So, everybody that’s sitting here is a part of that transformational change for all of our students. You are helping us in our work to transform lives. You’re helping each of those individual students realize success for themselves and their families and this region and beyond, so thank you for that.”
Sobolik shared her own experience as a Pell Grant-eligible student from Charles City, Iowa, looking for a little extra financial support help her become the first member of her family to receive a college education. She found it in the form of the Kate McLeod Scholarship – becoming one of the dozens of Charles City students to benefit from McLeod’s generosity over the years. It helped her enroll at the University of Iowa.
“I didn’t know necessarily what I would do there,” Sobolik said. “Who knew I would be an archaeologist, which of course, is always fast track to becoming chancellor. But here I am because of you, Kate. Here our students are because of you for helping them on their pathway to get to wherever it is they want to get.”
Attendees had an opportunity to hear from a couple of those scholarship recipients – public policy administration major Bella DeArmitt and Meredith Alton, a December graduate of the College of Education now teaching English at Normandy High School and preparing to begin work on her master’s – about what they’ve accomplished and where they’re headed because of the support of scholarships.
Alton returned to school to earn her degree and pursue her passion as a teacher after more than a decade away working in various service industry jobs and starting a family. She raved about the role UMSL played in making that possible.
“I wish I could name every professor who had a positive impact on my UMSL experience, but I was told that I have 3 to 5 minutes,” Alton said. “Surely that speaks volumes about UMSL. I genuinely believe that UMSL is a hidden gem in higher education. UMSL offers exceptional opportunities for students who want to get the most out of their experience, including how to access scholarships. I was extremely fortunate to receive numerous scholarships throughout my years at UMSL, which I am especially thankful for now that student loans are coming. I was highly impressed with the diverse scholarship opportunities that UMSL offers from a generous pool of donors.”
DeArmitt, like Alton a member of the Pierre Laclede Honors College, was able to make time to get involved on campus and in the community, including serving as a Newman Civic Fellow, because of scholarships that meant she didn’t need to work.
“I am extremely thankful for the financial support that I have been able to benefit from,” DeArmitt said. “You guys are responsible for that. I was hoping to graduate debt free, and when I graduate in December that will be my reality. As I enter into the local St Louis nonprofit industry the confidence that I have in myself will be because of the people in this room.”
Friday’s event also recognized Tom and Karleen Hoerr, and their support of students by funding the Helen Ogle Schmitt and Rita Hoerr Curtis Scholarship, named in honor of each of their mothers. The scholarship benefits students from the College of Education, where both Tom and Karleen graduated and where Tom has served as a scholar in residence since his retirement as head of the New City School.
Tom Hoerr, more than most donors, has gotten to see the payoff from his generosity while teaching aspiring school principals and administrators in his current role at UMSL.
“When I look at the kids who are in my UMSL class, I feel really good about the future,” Hoerr said. “Because I know that we’re preparing these kids to go out and make this community, this country, this world a better place.”
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