Scholarships are more than financial rewards for academic achievement or exceptional talent. Scholarships change lives.
Some 84 percent of Bloomsburg University’s full-time undergraduates receive financial aid, including state and federal grants and loans. In addition, this year 765 BU students are benefiting from nearly $1.4 million in scholarships from both annual and endowed funds.
Each of their stories is unique. A sampling:
Philadelphia freshman Elijah Campos, 18, and his two older brothers were being raised by their grandparents until a private school in central Pennsylvania changed his life. Founded by the philanthropic chocolate industrialist, the Milton Hershey School offers a free education to children from low-income families. From second grade until high school graduation, Campos found a nurturing, supportive and inspiring haven that encouraged him to hone his vocal talents.
“I started singing when I was around 5,” remembers Campos, one of eight children in his family. “When I sing, it feels like all the stress in life just goes away.”
At Hershey, Campos performed in all of the school’s vocal ensembles, including the Milton 5, a student group modeled on the 1960s and ’70s pop and soul group, the Jackson 5.
“Milton Hershey School set a new standard for me. It made me want to achieve more than anyone expected and taught me responsibility to keep my life on track, no matter what comes my way.”
A vocal music major with aspirations of becoming a rapper, R&B and Latino-infused singer and songwriter, Campos graduated from Milton Hershey School with $80,000 in scholarships earned through academic success and chose BU in part because his oldest brother, Eric Campuzano, lives nearby. After Campos auditioned for admission to BU, the music department awarded him the Harold H. and Melba Beck Hyde Memorial Music Scholarship. He expects to graduate debt-free in four years.
“Receiving the scholarship will push me to work harder than ever because I know someone truly believes in me,” he says, “and I will not let them down.”
The single mother of 5-year-old twin girls, Kim Kepner, 24, cares for infants in a day care center while taking social work classes — a career inspired 10 years ago by her terminally ill father’s hospice worker.
A nontraditional student who graduated from Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) in May 2014, Kepner, from Berwick, dropped out of college when she became pregnant in her freshman year, but never gave up on her education.
While she relies on loans and a few grants, the Harold H. and Melba Beck Hyde Memorial Social Welfare Scholarship has helped her buy textbooks, which are not always covered by financial aid, and to be more flexible with her work schedule. She received the one-time $500 award for an essay about why she chose to major in social work.
On track to earn her bachelor’s degree in December 2016, she plans to land a job after graduation and then study for her master’s degree at Marywood University. Eventually, she wants to work in a hospital pediatrics ward, where she would incorporate the grief counseling training she’s received as a volunteer at Camp Courage, a bereavement camp for children in nearby Millville.
Kepner credits the faculty at LCCC, who encouraged and supported her decision to follow her heart and transfer to BU to become a medical social worker.
And she still remembers vividly the hospital social worker who was there for her every day during her dad’s illness and on the day he died. “If I can make just one person feel like she made me feel, I’ve done my job.” •
Sue A. Beard is a retired newspaper editor and freelance writer based in Fort Myers, Fla.