When 10 Dougherty Family College (DFC) scholars got news they had earned a full-tuition scholarship to pursue a bachelor’s degree at St. Thomas, the prevailing response was: “This is a dream come true.”
These sentiments reflect the meaningful impact DFC has on promising students facing financial and systemic barriers to earning a college degree. To be awarded the Excellence Continuation Scholarship, each student achieved a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and had outstanding essays and faculty and mentor recommendations. Interim Dean Buffy Smith said these accomplishments were no small feat.
“We celebrate the scholars who won the scholarship because they had to remain laser-focused on their academics during a global pandemic, racial, political, and social unrest, and navigate personal and family life challenges,” Smith said. “They made it, and they persevered. They did not allow anyone or anything to stop them from achieving excellence.”
Smith added that while the scholarships will allow these 10 students to earn their bachelor’s degree with little or no debt, that’s just the beginning. The Excellence Continuation Scholarships help DFC continue to make good on its mission-driven promise.
“These scholarships will have a positive multi-generational impact on BIPOC communities in our state and nation,” Smith said. “It’s evidence that the University of St. Thomas and friends of Dougherty Family College are committed to preparing our scholars to become transformative leaders who will create a more just, inclusive and equitable world.”
Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipients for 2021 are: Roman Adhikari, Rashi Ambers-Winston, Lisan Hasnain, Asha Horsa, Janette Mendoza, Aiesha Osman, Alonso Ruiz-Cota, Rose Say, Khadra Sharif and Nataly Valencia Orozco.
The DFC Excellence Continuation Scholarships were made possible through the generous donations of the Ryan/Sterbenz Estate and Gene and Mary Frey. In addition, the students were matched with and completed an internship through partnerships with Target Corporation, U.S. Bank, Winnebago and Schwan’s.
The Newsroom connected with several scholarship recipients to highlight their stories.
Anticipated major: environmental studies
A first-generation college student, Aiesha Osman said receiving a scholarship means she’ll be able to pursue opportunities her family only dreamed of. The hard work it took to earn it, she said, is a way to say “thank you” to her parents.
“Receiving this scholarship means ease not just for me, but my parents as well,” Osman said. “They have provided the most when it came to education, and they always encouraged me to pursue an education.”
For Osman, higher education brought out skills she didn’t know she had, and it broadened her perspective and inspired her passions. In her first semester at DFC, Osman took a course called conservation biology, which sparked her interest in the environmental studies major she plans to pursue at St. Thomas.
“I didn’t realize how impactful that one class could be,” Osman said.
While at first, Osman wondered if the financial and community support she was hearing about at DFC orientation was “too good to be true,” DFC showed its true nature.
“Looking back, I see that the sense of community and family is definitely there,” Osman said. “There is nothing but support and care coming from students, staff and faculty. Everyone there really wants the best for you, academically and personally, and would help in any way possible to achieve that goal.”
Anticipated major: business communications
Partway through her first year at DFC, the COVID-19 pandemic and online classes added a layer of challenges for scholarship recipient Rashaunea Ambers-Winston. Then she lost her grandmother and cousin. It would’ve been easy to give up, but she persevered.
“I knew if I worked hard and kept having hope, things might just work out,” Ambers-Winston said. “Getting this full-ride [scholarship] felt unbelievable to achieve, but It also feels like it was meant to be. The scholarship was so important to me because I didn’t know how I was going to pay, and now I no longer have to stress. I know my loved ones are proud.”
Ambers-Winston has dreams of using her degree to help her community and fight injustices. She hopes someday to open a nonprofit in north Minneapolis that can be a safe space for African American youth to learn their history and get support in school.
“I know having my degree would give me power to do big things,” Ambers-Winston said. “I want to continue in school for the youth who look up to me, especially those who are African American. Sometimes it feels like it's impossible to succeed, but I’m willing to show that it is possible.”
Ambers-Winston also showcases her intellect, communications skills and life experience as an African American by publishing a website for her poetry and podcasts.
Anticipated major/minor: computer science/entrepreneurship
“Higher education is more than just gaining knowledge for its own sake,” said scholarship recipient Lisan Hasnain. “It is really about the impact that we as students can bring to the communities around us.”
The Roseville Area High School graduate wants to use what he learns in computer science to create technology that will positively impact the lives of blind people.
“After completing my undergraduate studies, I would like to go to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in user experience design, so I can move more toward the field of accessibility in technology.”
Hasnain developed a love for user experience design through internships he obtained with the help of DFC. He worked as a developer intern with St. Thomas’ Innovation & Technology Services and as an intern with U.S. Bank’s user experience design team.
His time at DFC, he said, has positively impacted his life and given him opportunities to grow and shape himself. It was a past DFC Continuing Excellence scholarship recipient and friend, Mesum Haider, who told Hasnain about DFC. “I was getting wait-listed from many other colleges I applied for, so I think I was in the right place at the right time,” Hasnain said.
“I believe higher education is a vehicle through which people have the ability to learn more about themselves and how they can impact the environments around them,” he said.
Anticipated major: elementary education
Scholarship recipient Rose Say grew up in St. Thomas’ backyard, graduating from Washington Technology Magnet High School, but she didn’t realize then that she’d someday be pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the university.
“Receiving this scholarship means I don't have to worry about money for school, and I can pursue my goal of becoming an elementary teacher,” Say said. “Also, receiving this scholarship means I must push myself with school. “
Expanding her knowledge and abilities academically and personally has motivated Say to pursue higher education, she said.
“My time at DFC has been extremely helpful. I’ve gained experience, knowledge and life skills I will use in the future for both my personal life and career,” Say explained. “I hope that more people know more of DFC and how it has impacted students' lives.”