At the Foundation’s "Set Sail for Scholarships" gala on March 4, 2017, the following Spotlight Scholars were asked to complete the line “If it wasn’t for Prairie State College . . . .”
If it wasn’t for Prairie State College I wouldn’t be on the verge of accomplishing my dreams. An educated woman is what I became. I have overcome my circumstance and obstacles. Yes, I have done the impossible. In 2 months and 17 days I will be the first nurse and college graduate in my family. Most people said it was going to be difficult to work nights at UPS and be a full-time nursing student. However, with the support and dedication Prairie State gives it students, anything is possible. I am confident, self-assured and more than ready to start my career in what I love to do. Which is to care for those who can’t care for themselves. I am Santario Washington and I’m proud to say that I am a Prairie State College Scholar.
Hello everyone, I hope everyone is having a wonderful night. My name is Tina Crescenzo. I am a student in the Dental Hygiene Program at Prairie State. Before I tell you a short version of my story, I’d like to share something with you.
I am so honored to be a part of this event. When I asked Deb how the Foundation gets the funds for scholarships, she told me that some Prairie State employees actually donate some of their paycheck every time they are paid. It really touched me to think that people so selflessly donate their hard earned money to invest in a student that they don’t even know. It touched my heart so much, it made me cry. I think these generous people deserve to know the student they are investing in and how much they are helping that person succeed and the difference they are making by helping me make a better life for myself and my daughter. So, that’s when I decided to write this letter because I want you to know me, how eternally grateful I am, and how appreciative I am of you helping me through school. I feel so blessed and lifted by your generosity.
I am a single mom with a 3 year old daughter. We lived with my father in a house he built for us when I was younger. It was difficult for me to go back to school but after some self- talk, I said let’s do it! Eye on the prize! I am ready and hungry for it. My father was so proud and excited and ready and willing to help support me and my daughter while in school. Then, he suddenly got sick with pneumonia. I was trying to be by his side at the hospital and take care of him once he got home. I did not want to leave his side. All I wanted to do was take care of him like he has always taken care of me but with school and my daughter, my time was limited. It was hard making the choice not to quit school to be there for him more. I asked him if he wanted me to quit school and he had me promise no matter what happens that I wouldn’t quit school. Three weeks later, unexpectedly, my father passed away. I lost my best friend, my support system, and my whole world was turned upside down. Dealing with the grief of knowing that had I not been in school, I could have spent more time with my Dad on his death bed, was heartbreaking. But that just made me fight even harder in his honor. I had worked for my Dad, so not only did I lose him, I lost my income. I could only afford to take off a week of school because of how difficult my classes were. So, while still in school pushing forward, trying to deal with the loss of my father, being a good mom, keeping my 4.0 GPA, I now was battling to save my father’s home that is in foreclosure and make sure my daughter and I didn’t lose our home too, tying up my father’s affairs, and trying to figure out how am I going to provide for my daughter and I while in school. I quickly took out a school loan which could get me by if I am able to stay in the house. You can’t work while in Dental Hygiene School and being a fulltime Mommy, for it is a professional and competitive program. It is like boot camp x 10 on steroids. The stuff they have you doing each week makes your head spin.
When I started school, I quickly reached out to the resources around me and wanted to be involved and meet people. After my first semester back I became a member of Phi Theta Kappa, Trio, the Dual Degree Program with Governors State University, I was accepted into the Dental Hygiene Program, a Foundation scholar, and shortly after also became a OMD scholar. The people that work for Prairie State College have been such a strong support system for me. They bring meaning to education to a whole new level with the amount of support they give and just how they take extra time off the clock to help students achieve their dreams and navigate life’s obstacles. People don’t think that they could get that much from Prairie State but amongst me and my fellow scholars we quickly realized there is no other school as special as Prairie State and what they represent. What they stand for like Integrity, character, diversity, teamwork, determination, dedication, passion and so many other things I admire and stand for. They have become my family that I value with all my heart. Deb quickly became a parental figure, mentor, and a trusted friend, my counselor Deeneen, Carmen from the financial aid office, Marcus from OMD and my fellow scholars, Maureen helping me with a grant to pay for childcare and what the state wouldn’t cover, security officer Strat and the police officers that became supportive allies, my instructors Dr. Nelson, Dr. Nick, Shannon Word and so many more that have helped and have been positive role models. Through my adversity, life’s obstacles, the twists and turns, jumping through hoops, many tears, they have impacted my life and made such a difference. The amount of time they have sat with me to help navigate these hardships, inspire me, and how they have always gone out of their way to make me feel special, like I still have my Dad around, encouraging me, positive reinforcement when I was down, all the pep talks, advice, allowing me to get close to them and really know them as a person, this has all sincerely and truly touched my heart forever. I am eternally grateful. Feeling like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times, I can’t tell you how much it meant and what a relief it was when Deb told me, don’t worry, you focus on school and I’ll take care of the rest. I hadn’t heard that since my Dad was alive and it meant so much to me! The foundation has helped me pay for my books, supplies, and any leftover tuition I have after my financial aid. This has all boosted me in expanding my horizons and climbing the mountain. I believe for every setback there is a comeback. Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were. All I see is forward. I love learning and I am excited to embrace my education and future. I care about people and want to make a difference. I want so many things for my daughter and I. My father always took in people, helped so many and shared his riches while he had them and taught me to do the same when I was able to. One of my goals is to be rich in my endeavors so I can help so many as well. I strive to achieve great things and I hope one day, I get the chance to give back so generously the way all of you have given to me.
If it wasn't for Prairie State College, I wouldn't have been able to start my journey as a nurse. Nursing has always been my passion and attending Prairie State has helped me realize that if you want something you have to put in the work to get it. Being a part of a school where faculty sincerely cares about your success and people who will do anything to help you succeed is a blessing. I am proud say I will soon be receiving my second degree from Prairie State College..
If it wasn’t for Prairie State College, I would not be standing here before you tonight, thanking each and every single one of you. Being able to go home tonight and telling my mother I’m a college student. This statement might be insignificant to many, but to me it means everything. I am an undocumented student that lives with his single mother and younger sister and we are barely making enough income for rent and bills. Being an undocumented student didn’t help my case because I am not eligible to apply for any Federal Financial Aid and most scholarships ask that you need to be a citizen. The idea of attending college one day seemed impossible. Having to mature at a very young age because I was now the, “man of the house” and taking care of my little sister was my main priority while my mother worked. I briefly lost sight of my own goals and saw them as an impossible obstacle I couldn’t get past. When my senior year of high school came I was ready to see all my friends go away to school, but Prairie State College reached out to a handful of us and asked us to place into their Early College Initiative program. I took classes at Prairie State College even before I graduated from high school and it helped me realize that nothing is impossible. I didn’t care what I had to do, but I decided I was going to college. I sometimes have to work two jobs just to make enough to make that monthly tuition payment, and help my mother at home with bills, rent and to fix our car every time it breaks down. I often sleep 3 to 4 hours a night so I can squeeze in some study time before waking up at 4 a.m. to go to work. I take the bus or often walk to school when I don’t have enough change to take the bus. I have the Foundation to thank for every scholarship they’ve found that I was eligible to apply for due to my status. With that help it take some weight off of my back and now I am able to help at home with more expenses. Prairie State College helped me meet so many helpful people that are willing to go out of their way for me. I have friends that have seen me walking to school give me rides whenever they can. My academic advisor, Jennica, helps me to stay on track and not lose hope and sight of what my goals are and always opens another door of opportunity when one closes and has helped me find some financial relief through the Foundation disregarding my status. Because of Prairie State College I am overjoyed to say that I am a college student and I can bring the news to my mother that I will be graduating this spring and continuing with my academic career and thank her for all her hard work.
Thank you and goodnight.
If it wasn't for Prairie State, I would not have had the opportunity to explore my potential as a leader. 7 years ago, I wasn't even able to speak English fluently, but right now I am serving as the President of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor society at Prairie State. Every staff member I interact with at Prairie State has made a difference in my life. Through this interaction, I was able to find the leader that was inside me and I was able to overcome my fears because they motivated me every day— even when I was down.
If it wasn’t for Prairie State College, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Ever since I was young, I have always been taught how important opportunity is and that education is the key. Since coming to Prairie State, I’ve been able to not just get an education but to grow. Being there has given me the opportunity to learn more about myself and to be a part of many different experiences. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet many amazing people who helped shape me and who I am today.
If it wasn't for Prairie State College and your support, I would not have had the opportunity to attend this prestigious school. My name is Rita Marie Coleman and I am a proud recipient of tuition and book scholarship awards. I have balanced family, work and school. It wasn’t easy, but I continue to do it with a smile oon my face and no complaints. Gandhi stated, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Prairie State College has given me the opportunities to change into the person I want to be who helps to change the world. I currently work for Cook County Health and Hospitals Systems. My career goal is to use my newly earned Criminal Justice degree at the Juvenile Detention Center as a Probation Counselor. There I will be able to help others like you have helped me.