When chemistry major Kristine Senkane missed the deadline for university-wide scholarships, she thought she was through. Senkane was an international student from Latvia with limited resources from home.
“I prayed because I didn’t know what to do,” Senkane said. “That day when I prayed, I’m walking down the hallway from the chemistry department and I see this sign, ‘The scholarship application deadline extended for department scholarships.’ I was like, ‘This is an answer to my prayer.’”
Donors representing over forty scholarships joined students like Senkane for a luncheon at the BYU Hinckley Center on Thursday, October 27 to celebrate the importance and blessing of scholarships in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (CPMS).
Hosted by CPMS, the luncheon started with a greeting by Brent Hall, the college’s LDS Philanthropies liaison, who emphasized the immense and enduring impact that scholarships have in students’ lives.
“You have all made a difference,” Hall said. “What you’re doing is changing lives, changing families, changing the world. There’s not a person in this room who didn’t have a blessing of a scholarship.”
After a vocal solo of “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul” by Katherine Armantrout, accompanied by Forrest Howell, Hall introduced two scholarship recipients who shared the personal impact of receiving a scholarship.
“It’s a lot of money and I don’t just have it at home,” Senkane said. “I could go to school in Latvia, but it’s such a big difference because here we have so many more resources and professors that are a lot more qualified. Even the MRI machines in the Benson are great.”
The other speaker was Koa Fisher, a senior studying applied mathematics, who discussed how his scholarship, the Questar Scholarship, helped him to be more financially independent.
“It’s a great blessing to know that I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for my bills because I have a scholarship,” Fisher said. “Growing up, my parents have always been there, but they wanted me to be financially independent, so I always had that worry of how I’m going to pay for everything if I don’t have an income that’s high enough. This has helped me to do that.”
Hall echoed the benevolence and gratitude theme of the luncheon by telling a couple of poignant stories about people whose lives have been greatly impacted by scholarships, including a woman who wrote a letter expressing her great appreciation.
Hall recounted how a letter was received last year from a student who said, “My mother is bipolar. We live on every government handout that we get. When I was 12, my mother looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You will never go to college.’ I’m graduating this semester, and I can only do it because I got a scholarship.”
Dean Scott Sommerfeldt also expressed appreciation to the donors in attendance for everything they have done for the students.
“As you look at these students, there are examples of students who would not have made it through school without the scholarship,” Sommerfeldt said. “It enhances their education. They have opportunities to become more engaged in their discipline, to perhaps be more involved with research, which helps them leave this place far better prepared to go out and make a difference in the world.”
Sommerfeldt ended the luncheon by urging students to truly recognize and appreciate what the donors have done for students and their education. He urged students to likewise, in all aspects of their lives, give back and help others.
“In each of these instances, it represents a person who made a sacrifice, that had other people’s interests at heart, and helped pave the way for those following them to be able to be successful in their lives,” Sommerfeldt said. “When you get past BYU, remember what they have done for you and learn from that and look for ways that you can help others.”
Alan Stanfill, the representative for the Robert Squires Scholarship, discussed how scholarships are not always established by those who have been blessed with wealth in their lives.
“Robert’s mother wanted his name to be remembered,” Stanfill said of Squires’ mother and her son, who was killed in an accident. “This scholarship was set up because none of their dreams came true, and they want to make other people’s dreams come true.”
Stephen Kotter, a junior studying physics and astronomy, is grateful that his dreams can come true because of the Robert Squires Scholarship.
“I am paying for my own school one-hundred percent, so anything that I can get from another person really does help,” Kotter said.
The luncheon evoked the theme that scholarships should be continual and that helping others achieve their dreams is a cycle that should never end.
“The donors are great and inspiring, and I want to be them one day,” Senkane said.