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Seven Tomek: Scholarships that nurture pride and success

“By all statistical reasoning I should not even be in college, let alone successful in college,” begins a thank you letter to the Sun Devil Family Association (SDFA) from scholarship recipient Seven Tomek (pictured back row, 5th from left), a single parent who lives below the poverty line.

The SDFA has awarded scholarships, like Seven’s, since 1986. Beginning with two scholarships of $250, the program has grown to 54 scholarships of $4,000 each awarded last year. Initially, the funds were raised each year to award as many scholarships as possible. Over time, parent contributions were significant enough to establish an endowment for the program, providing support in perpetuity.

The impact of these scholarships is evident through the recipients’ personal stories, like Seven’s. She continues: “I’m in the final semester of my undergraduate career and there is a good chance that, without the help of the family association, I would be forced to quit a semester short of completion. Instead, I’m finishing my undergraduate thesis and submitting applications for doctorate programs. I also started training to help with drug research. My education and experiences have surpassed any expectation or dream I could ever have set for myself.”

ASU students aren’t the only beneficiaries of this program, which requires that students volunteer each semester at university events. This year, ASU will receive 1,300 hours of community service from the family association scholars.

“The service component of our scholarship program is intended to help the student build community within the university and SDFA, which contributes to their overall success and feeling connected with ASU,” says Robin Okun Hengl, senior director of Parent Programs for the ASU Foundation for A New American University, which houses the family association.

Seven confirms the value of this interaction: “I find a sense of worth and identity through my academic success. This success has been validated and recognized by the family association when I often otherwise feel invisible. As a result, this scholarship goes far beyond the monetary component; it instills a sense of pride and motivation I’m not sure I’d find otherwise. Thank you for the scholarship, the motivation and for believing in me. ‘Thank you’ does not seem enough, but thank you.”

 

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