When a teenager clocks into a part time job, they do not typically expect to gain more than the $8.50 an hour they pocket every other week. However, many local organizations — schools, religious institutions and places of employment — are rewarding students who go above and beyond what is required by helping individuals achieve their educational goals.
Recent high school graduate and part-time McDonald’s employee Stacia Tyson wanted to attend North Carolina A&T University, a historically Black university located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her friends and family felt she should attend a school in Indiana due to the cost of out-of-state tuition.
After applying for 40 scholarships, Stacia Tyson received $7,500 from numerous organizations, including a $2,500 scholarship from McDonald’s, through their McDonald’s National Employee Scholarship Program; a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship from the Marion Baptist Ministerial Alliance; a scholarship from the Black History Club at her high school; and a scholarship from an Indiana chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Due to the funding she received, she is planning to attend her dream school and study criminal justice.
“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to go because of money. Everybody kept telling me, ‘You can get a scholarship to this school in Indiana, why would you go out of state? You are throwing away free money,’ and I’m like, I want to go out, explore and do what I want to do. It was an obstacle to have people telling me I might as well give up and stay in this state. I knew I had to get scholarships in order to go,” said Tyson.
After applying for 40 scholarships, Tyson received $7,500 from numerous organizations, including McDonald’s, the Marion Baptist Ministerial Alliance, the Black History Club at her high school and an Indiana chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. With the funding, she plans to attend her dream school and study criminal justice.
According to online scholarship search service Fastweb.com, students benefit from prioritizing local scholarships and less competitive scholarships and applying to as many scholarships as they can. Being involved in the community pays off, because many students, including Tyson, receive awards from organizations they have personal connections with.
“Community involvement is really important, because if you help the community and they notice, they will be willing to help you,” said Tyson. “It feels great to know my effort at work was recognized, because sometimes working at McDonald’s, you get looked at as just another fast food worker. I took my job seriously and I knew teamwork was really important. Some people don’t get recognized for their good work, so it’s a great feeling.”
McDonald’s isn’t the only organization supporting students in need. Franklin, Indiana, resident Gloria Turner received a $3,000 scholarship from Goodwill to cover the costs of any barriers to postsecondary education, including transportation, books and materials, housing costs or child care. Graduating from The Excel Center, Goodwill’s high school for adults, encouraged Turner to consider college.
As a teenager, college was never on Turner’s radar. Her mother and grandmother were high school dropouts who had children at young ages, and she doesn’t recall her family encouraging her to look into higher education. Turner dropped out of high school, and her life became increasingly difficult. After chatting with an acquaintance at the Family and Social Services Administrations Indiana Manpower and Comprehensive Training (IMPACT) program, she decided to look into completing her high school diploma.
“At the time, I was homeless, my car was up for repo and I needed to get child care for my son. In the IMPACT program, someone told me they were going to high school. They were the same age as me, and I thought there was no way they were going to go to school. I applied. I was very scared, because I had been out of school for 10 years,” said Turner.
After maintaining a 4.0 GPA and obtaining a high school diploma in under a year, she decided to look into higher education. Today, Turner is the first in her family to graduate from college, earning an associate degree from Ivy Tech in 2017. Turner received a scholarship from Goodwill’s McClelland Scholars Program, an initiative that helps students who have significant financial needs and barriers to education. In order to become a McClelland Scholar, one must be nominated by someone who works at Goodwill.
Though Turner says the emotional barriers to attending college are often as big as the financial ones, her children inspire her to keep going when times get tough. She hopes her achievements will be an inspiration to her two sons.
“Growing up, college was never a conversation that was in my household. I did lack emotional support from my family. Sometimes it’s self-sabotage. I don’t have a lot of people I know that are in college that I can talk to about things, and I discourage myself. I think, what’s the point in finishing this? Then I remind myself of the benefits I will have later in life, and the impact it will have on my children, to show them that if I can do it, there is no reason they can’t be better than I am,” said Turner.
Today, Turner works for the Excel Center as a life coach, supporting others who are facing many of the same situations she’s faced in life.
“I wanted to come back and give to a community that has so graciously given to me. I would always say as a joke, ‘I’m going to come back and get your job.’ That opportunity presented itself, and I applied,” said Turner. “When you know better, you can do better, but if you never know how to help yourself, you kind of stay stagnant. I want to encourage people by telling them I was in this same situation, and your background doesn’t have to define what your future is going to be.”
Turner plans to attend IUPUI in 2018, to study political science, social work and business.
Gloria Turner was a third-generation single mother and high school dropout, but has since become the first in her family to graduate from college. Turner received a scholarship from Goodwill’s McClelland Scholars Program, an initiative that helps students who have significant financial needs and barriers to education.
Photographer: Josh Marshall