By Phillip Milano
One came from a broken home in Akron, Ohio, watching her mother work two jobs and wondering how she and her sister would ever be able to make a better life for themselves.
Another dealt with parents who didn’t see the value of education and or in nurturing her ambitions.
Still another vowed she wouldn’t be stereotyped as the “fighter from the ghetto” who didn’t achieve her dreams.
Another came to the U.S. from Vietnam and was separated from his father for three years, wondering what, if anything, would inspire him.
One by one, they stood at JU’s Sixth Annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday, March 13, and relayed how donors’ scholarships changed their lives.
“When I received my financial aid letter in the mail, I knew not only was college achievable, but also affordable, because of the multiple scholarships I received, specifically because of the honors program (at JU),” said Ohioan Brittani Wyskocil, a Jacksonville University junior and Williams Scholar recipient. “The idea of someone who never even met me giving such a large scholarship for my entire college career was incredible.”
The speakers joined with more than 160 others attending to show their appreciation to dozens of donors on hand at the event at the Davis College of Business. This year’s luncheon was unique in that it comes in the midst of the new “March Forward: 31 New Scholarships, 31 Days” campaign, whose mission is to create 31 new Jacksonville University scholarships during the 31 days of March, with the funds awarded to incoming (Fall 2013) freshmen. (View the Sixth Annual JU Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon program here, and a gallery of photos from the event here.)
They heard from new JU President Tim Cost, who noted that he himself was able to become a Dolphin and graduate Magna Cum Laude in 1981 as a result of a package of scholarships offered him.
“And there are plenty of others right now, outstanding high school sophomores and juniors, who we are hearing want badly to come here,” he said. “The work you as donors are doing, whether it’s $500 or the millions we have received from some, please know just how impactful it is. We want more of these students, and we want them to stay, excel and graduate.”
Cost said that as part of JU’s pioneering $85 million ASPIRE comprehensive campaign, more money is being raised for scholarships. Just in the short term, more than 40 new JU scholarships that begin in the Fall 2013 term have been created, funded by individuals at an overall value when matched by JU of about $2.4 million. Named, matched scholarships for amounts even as low as $1,000 per year for four years are available.
Among the scholarship speakers, audience members also heard from senior nursing major and Jacksonville Commitment Scholar Alexandra Baker, who discussed the daunting challenges of growing up in a household that did not champion higher education. Thankfully, her grandparents inspired her as she pursued her dreams of an education in nursing.
“I never thought I could afford JU, but being a Commitment Scholar meant all the difference,” she said. “JU has shaped me from being just a teenage girl to becoming a health care professional.”
JU Music Scholar Raquel “Rocky” Lopez, meanwhile, grew up in New York and was the first in her family to attend college. Among her many accomplishments, she recently sang the National Anthem at the Davis Cup tennis event at Veterans Memorial Arena in downtown Jacksonville.
“With these generous donations, JU has been able to give me the tools to go after my dreams,” she said.
Then there was Dr. Han Duong, who graduated from JU in 2000 and came back to teach mathematics at the University. He endured separation from family members after fleeing Vietnam, and thanked the Williams family for their generous scholarship help.
“You may not know it, but you are responsible for helping with my educational, personal and career development,” he said. “I want to encourage the students here today to do more than just be good students. Think carefully about the opportunities given you.”
Sitting in the audience, JU Music Scholar and junior Quayshaun Oliver of Sarasota, whose father died when he was a sixth-grader, nodded his head, remembering how the Pell grants, academic and music scholarships he received made the difference between attending community college or enjoying the benefits of a private education.
“Here, I get the small classes and hands-on attention I’d never get anywhere else,” said Oliver, who plans on pursuing an M.B.A. at JU and then making a foray into entertainment law education. “Dr. Tommy Harrison, chair of the division of music here, he’s always in contact with me, we are texting and emailing back and forth, and I know he is always ready to share with me on a personal level. You don’t get that everywhere."
More information on March Forward, Named Matched Scholarships, Endowed Scholarships and more is available at (904) 256-7393, firstname.lastname@example.org or ju.edu/aspire.