Dougherty Family College 2024 Excellence Scholarship recipients
Brandon Woller '17 / University of St. Thomas

DFC Excellence Scholarship Sets 15 Recipients on Path Toward Bachelor’s Degrees

How to pay for tuition toward a bachelor’s degree is top of mind for many students. For Isabel Inga Dutan, a first-generation college student graduating with her associate degree from the Dougherty Family College in Minneapolis, she doesn’t have to stress. She’s one of 15 scholars from DFC’s 2024 class who is receiving a full-tuition scholarship to continue an education toward a bachelor’s degree at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

“Growing up, my parents didn’t have the time to dream about bigger things such as continuing their education because they had to work to support themselves,” Dutan said. “I now have those opportunities my parents didn’t.”

Isabel Inga Dutan
Isabel Inga Dutan ’24 AA at the DFC second annual Community Block Party in Minneapolis.
Brandon Woller '17 / University of St. Thomas

Dutan, who plans to major in social work, is more similar to her parents than she may realize. She is in essence supporting herself, too, through the hard work it took to become a DFC Excellence Scholarship recipient.

To be awarded the DFC Excellence Scholarship, recipients must achieve a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and have outstanding essays and faculty and mentor recommendations.

Franklin Garcia Mendoza ’24 AA

“Everything that I have done so far and what I have achieved is all for them,” Dutan said about her parents.

Franklin Garcia Mendoza, another DFC Excellence Scholarship recipient, can relate. “Growing up in a Hispanic household with a single mom taught me a lot about strength and hard work,” the incoming computer science major said. “When my mom would work, she would work really hard, and she still made sure our home was full of love. Seeing her face challenges with courage inspires me every day. It's why I work hard in school and in my activities outside of school. Her example has shaped my goals and how I approach life.”

A pathway to success

The 15 recipients of the 2024 DFC Excellence Scholarship join nearly 70 other Dougherty Family College graduates who have been awarded the scholarship since 2019, two years after the two-year degree program opened its doors to the first cohort of scholars.

“The growth of Dougherty Family College is an unmistakable indicator that creating a culturally affirming and caring learning community makes all the difference in helping scholars thrive in college,” said Dean Buffy Smith. “This award allows scholars to focus their time and attention on earning their bachelor’s degrees without worrying about how they will pay for tuition.”

Dean Buffy Smith and Kathy Dougherty
Dean Buffy Smith and benefactor Kathy Dougherty.

DFC itself is a low-cost tuition option for scholars seeking an associate degree. More than half of its students who filed the FAFSA paid $1,030 per year for tuition and fees at DFC in 2023-24. To be able to also continue on for a bachelor’s degree without tuition worries is life-changing for the scholars.

“This prestigious DFC Excellence Scholarship is changing the trajectory of their lives and opens a world of possibilities for themselves and their families,” Smith said.

Gratitude and inspiration

Wyatt Jellison
Wyatt Jellison ’24 AA
Brandon Woller '17 / University of St. Thomas

Scholarship recipient Wyatt Jellison, who plans to major in environmental science with a biology track at St. Thomas, is very grateful for the low-cost tuition options at DFC and for the full-tuition scholarship to St. Thomas. 

“I did not anticipate going to college due to tuition costs and family commitments,” he said. “My mother passed away when I was 13 years old, and ever since it has been very important to me to succeed academically so that I can know she would be proud of me.”

Lindsey Anderson
Environmental Portrait of Lindsey Anderson taken on May 9, 2024, at the DFC second annual Community Block Party in Minneapolis.
Brandon Woller '17 / University of St. Thomas

Lindsey Anderson, who plans to major in mathematics education at St. Thomas, said the full-tuition scholarship comes at a time when her family has been under a lot of stress. 

“My dad got diagnosed with ampullary cancer about a month before the end of my first year at DFC, and up until now it has been nothing but an uphill battle to get him better,” she said. She credits her mom for being their backbone. “Her constant support, resilience, and love has been what kept not only me, but my whole family going.”

For recipient Amber Mueller, the roles are reversed compared to some of her peers. “I have a daughter named Sadie who is 6 and she has been my inspiration, in fact I am decorating my graduation cap with ‘I did it for her’ and Sadie’s picture, so she knows how important it is to me to make her proud and give her something to look up to.”

Smith congratulated all 15 recipients during the annual DFC Block Party. They are:

  • Naomy Acosta
  • Kareem Alkhaleefa
  • Lindsey Anderson
  • Deyton Dao
  • Jerry Salguero Flores
  • Mario Gomez
  • Isabel Inga
  • Wyatt Jellison
  • King Larmie
  • Franklin Garcia Mendoza
  • Amber Mueller
  • Alexis Rodriguez-Mata
  • Marvin Gonzalez Ruiz
  • Salma K. Thompson
  • Cielo I. Garcia Villordo

The DFC Excellence Scholarships were made possible through the generous donations of the Ryan/Sterbenz Estate and Gene and Mary Frey.

See photo gallery for more Scholar quotes.