Even just a few years ago, Heydee Ferman wasn’t sure if she would go to college. The daughter of immigrants, her path to higher education was far from clear. Now, a scholar preparing to graduate from Dougherty Family College, she’s set her sights on a much different horizon.
“My whole family is immigrants, so seeing what they’re going through I want to be a part of that and make a change,” Ferman said.
Ferman is the first person in her family to pursue a college degree. After two years at DFC, she’s found the confidence to pursue so much more.
“I want to be an immigration lawyer,” Ferman said. “In high school I wasn’t the best student … DFC has prepared me in a way that I’m ready for the professional world.”
After graduating with her associate degree, Ferman plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree as a double major in criminal justice and sociology at the University of St. Thomas. And she’ll do so as one of this year’s Continuing Excellence Scholarship winners.
This spring 16 outstanding scholars from the Dougherty Family College, Ferman included, were selected as recipients. The scholarships, made possible through the generous donations of the Ryan/Sterbenz Estate and Gene and Mary Frey, will fully fund the students' tuition toward four-year degrees at St. Thomas.
“For me this scholarship offers a kind of clear path to what I’m going to do,” Ferman said. “For my mom, it means actually having her first daughter have a higher education.”
Another scholarship recipient for 2022, Cheyene Bialke, wasn’t admitted to DFC on her first try. But that setback only fueled her passion to succeed.
“I was rejected because my math grades were not that good,” Bialke said. “I’ve never been good at math … I was never that student that could get an A on that test.”
Bialke appealed the decision, outlining how she could still be a productive member of the DFC community.
“They want you to appeal and answer how you are going to make sure you can still be successful,” Bialke said. “And a part of what I wrote was just really being engaged and a really active student, so I made sure that I pursued that promise.”
That mission paid off. Bialke now plans to pursue digital media arts with a minor in journalism at St. Thomas. She’s thankful to kick-start her journey without having to worry about how to pay for it.
“My parents have been through so much and have sacrificed some things for me to even be in college right now,” Bialke said. “This scholarship is an opportunity to help better myself and also better my family.”
Reflecting on her years at DFC, Bialke knows she made the right choice to pursue her associate degree.
“DFC stands for Dougherty Family College and the emphasis here is really family,” Bialke said. “They make you feel welcomed in that space.”
For scholar Adam Thompson, another Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipient, that welcome atmosphere made a significant impact.
“The teachers get excited to see you in the hallway,” Thompson said. “They just seem to care about what’s going on with you.”
Thompson and his fellow graduating class have spent their entire college career navigating the pandemic. Through all the social distancing, Thompson is glad he chose DFC.
“Your well-being is important,” Thompson said. “Especially in such a weird time where it’s very easy to feel isolated … they tackle the real-life issues.”
Thompson plans to pursue mechanical engineering at St. Thomas this fall. He says DFC played a critical role in preparing him for his chosen career.
“I was kind of a mess in high school – no planner, no time management,” Thompson said. “DFC really just helped me get my act together and help focus those skills.”
The Continuing Excellence Scholarships help DFC continue to make good on its mission-driven promise – to remove financial and systemic barriers to earning a college degree. Thompson knows how important that is firsthand.
“This scholarship is that financial piece,” Thompson said. “I won’t have to work a 20-hour-a week job … having to also worry about how to get my assignments done.”
Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipients for 2021 are: Dikshya Adhikari, Kal Animut, Javier Arce, Peter Asamoah, Cheyene Bialke, Lucas Candamil, Priscila Chavez Romero, Dayanara Esparza, Heydee Ferman, Freddy Flores Dominguez, Edmira Jaco-English, Shukri Sheikh, Kalhywet Sisay, Adam Thompson, Carmen Torres, and Jennie Vang.
To be awarded the Continuing Excellence Scholarship, each student achieved a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and had outstanding essays and faculty and mentor recommendations.