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Lee Capristo, editor
The Mulberry Tree
Phone: (240) 895-4795
18952 East Fisher Road
St. Mary's City, MD 20686
by Denise Krumenacker, Donor Relations Manager
Photos by Brenda Thompson
It's no secret. Sometimes it is all about the money.
"To be completely honest, the only reason I came to St. Mary's was because they were offering the most money," Marian Lorraine Stukes '09 admits. "Out of the nine schools I got accepted to, St. Mary's offered me the best financial aid packet in addition to the outside scholarships I was receiving at the time." This comes as no surprise to Wes Jordan, dean of admissions and financial aid. "It's our mission," says Jordan, "to maintain our status as a public institution. Financial aid is critical to enrolling the academically strongest and most diverse student body we can. A diverse student population—defined by economic, ethnic, racial, geographic, and academic talent factors—is the foundation of our academic excellence and our vibrant campus community."
Among Maryland's higher education institutions, St. Mary's College is unique because the majority of financial aid is need- rather than merit-based. The College uses approximately two thirds of its aid budget for need-based aid and one third for merit aid. "No other Maryland public college or university in Maryland does that," says Jordan. Currently, 64% of students receive a scholarship and/or grant from St. Mary's. College funds, along with the private donations raised by the SMCM Foundation, provide more than $5 million in aid to St. Mary's students each year. This year, though, it may not be enough. You cannot open a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing about the slumping economy, the tightening of the credit market, and the student loan crunch. Sadly, these market forces have hit some of St. Mary's students hard. The College has seen an increase of 23% in the number of financial aid requests and an increase in the number of students who have no where else to turn for the funds to stay in school. To help students facing unexpected family emergencies, such as lost jobs or unexpected medical expenses, the Foundation and the Office of Financial Aid have joined forces to create the Emergency Assistance Fund. The aim of this fund is to help students who have had a sudden, dramatic change in their financial situation because of the weak economy.
On these pages, we introduce you to some of the well-deserving students who have faced financial difficulties and have stitched together a quilt of scholarships, loans, and jobs in order to get an education. Much of the rest of the issue is filled with the names and organizations whose generosity continues to make St. Mary's the remarkable institution that it is.
Olusola "Sola" Jelilia Ogundele '09
Olusola "Sola" Jelilia Ogundele '09 readily admits being a city girl at heart. She grew up in downtown Baltimore, attended Northwestern High School, and, until her senior year, had no intention of attending a college outside of Baltimore.
"Both of my parents wanted me to go to Morgan [State University in Baltimore]—it's only 15 minutes from my home. And my dad got his master's from there," Sola recounts. "But, Jeff Smith [associate director of admissions at St. Mary's] knew St. Mary's would be perfect for me,that I could be successful here, and that it was close to go back home if I really, really needed to.
"I came to visit in early October of my senior year and fell in love with St. Mary's," she remembers. "Everyone said, ‘Hi.' The personable nature of the students, faculty, and staff made me extremely comfortable and I could actually picture myself having a wellrounded college experience here."
With the blessing of her parents, Sola accepted the scholarships from the CollegeBound Foundation in Baltimore and St. Mary's and headed to Southern Maryland to begin her undergraduate years. "I know how lucky I am to receive a scholarship," she says. "It means so much to me, especially when scholarship resources are so limited."
That first year, Sola was juggling tough classes and some personal issues. "The staff and faculty would not let me give up and leave, though. The best suggestion given to me that year was to stay for the summer. I did that and it changed my life."
That summer she worked for the Office of Student Development at the information desk in the Campus Center and got herself back on track to earn her degree.
Sola continues to perform a delicate balancing act of earning good grades while earning money during the year and over the summer to pay for summer classes and for all her books.
"A credit card would make my life very easy right now," Sola admits, "but, it would make my future very difficult.
"College is the forming ground for the type of people we will become," she emphatically states. Where does Sola see herself after St. Mary's? "I am a helper by nature and can't see myself working in a field that does not involve helping make someone's life better," she says. "I would like to work with women's shelters or an organization that deals with teenagers, preferably in high school."
Until then, Sola enjoys the quiet of the early morning campus and the Garden of Remembrance. But, she still misses Baltimore.
Joshua Booth '07
When Joshua Booth '07 came to visit St. Mary's, he was "blown away"with the views over the river. "I've always been one to spend time outside, and it seemed like that was true for everyone at St. Mary's. Nobody was ever in his or her room."
But for this Connecticut native, attending college in Maryland presented some problems. "Being from out of state, St. Mary's was not the cheapest option for me," Josh explains. "I earned some scholarships and had enough need-based grants to make it affordable. I also had various jobs during my first two years, working 10-20 hours per week to pay for books and the cost of living. However, after my sophomore year, a lot of federal resources were reallocated and my family no longer qualified for a large portion of our financial aid package."
With guidance and some help from the SMCM Foundation, Josh was able to "work out a plan that allowed me to stay at St. Mary's and finish my degree." Josh majored in computer science, and now works at a small company, Nexaweb Technologies, in Boston as an engineer.
"My time at St. Mary's gave me the opportunity to grow in new ways,' says Josh. "The atmosphere is contagious with friends, classmates, and professors alike sharing in a culture of selfless opportunity. My favorite memories are praying and walking at night, grateful for the stars and river that always provided peace no matter what life had thrown my way."
Marian Lorraine Stukes '09
Like the majority of high school seniors facing college costs, Marian Lorraine Stukes '09 knew she had to be practical when looking for the right college. Her academic record qualified her to receive several scholarships through local organizations and, as a Maryland resident, she qualified for in-state tuition at St. Mary's.
But costs were higher than the scholarships could cover. "I really didn't want to take out numerous loans to go to college," Marian continues. "My mother is the sole provider who pays my tuition. She is an elementary school teacher and is currently putting two children through college, so without the scholarships St. Mary's offers, I wouldn't be able to attend."
Her first year here was a bit of an adjustment. "There was a huge academic transition from high school to college," Marian says. "I now realize how lucky I was to attend Baltimore City College High School, which really prepared me for what I would face at St. Mary's."
"There are things here that I would never have been exposed to if I hadn't come here," she explains. "What place allows you the chance to sail and rock climb without leaving campus? I have taken up leadership positions that I never thought I would. I have been president for two clubs, a radio DJ, a rugby forward, a teacher's assistant for self-defense, and the list continues to grow. I am a completely different person intellectually, socially, and emotionally. It's awesome that when I go back home, my family and friends notice that positive change in me. I can only credit it to St. Mary's."
This spring, Marian plans to graduate with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in WGSX (women, gender, and sexuality) studies. She wants to attend graduate school—"in-state because it's cheaper and will allow me to work and study simultaneously"—and become a relationship therapist to eventually earn a doctorate and open a private practice.
What will she remember most about St. Mary's? "There is no way I could answer this question without writing a 10-page paper," she replies. "I always tell people that St. Mary's is a diamond in the rough, because we have a great campus, great academic opportunities, awesome faculty, and the coolest people I have ever met."
Three Special Scholarships
No one can quite put into words the rush of excitement you get when you hear someone say, "I went to St. Mary's,too!" It is this spirit of family that led the St. Mary's Alumni Association to establish two legacy scholarships for relatives of a St. Mary's alumnus/alumna. The scholarship is awarded to two first-year students and is renewable each year, provided the student maintains a 3.00 GPA and 12 credit-hours each semester. This year's recipients are Julie Walter and Kelsey Wood. In addition to the Alumni Scholarships, there is also a Post-Graduate Scholarship awarded each year. The Alumni Council accepts the applications and makes the $5,000 award (funded by an anonymous donor) to a graduating senior or an alumna/us pursuing a professional or graduate degree. This year's recipient is Alece Kaplan '05. More details on how to apply for both scholarships and the application forms are available at the Alumni Web site: http://www.smcm.edu/alum/benefits.
Julie Walter '12
Julie is proud to attend the same college her great-great grandmother attended more than four generations ago. (Her father's sister and three of her mother's cousins are also St. Mary's alums and her brother plans to graduate from St. Mary's this year.) At Calvert High School in Prince Frederick, Maryland, Julie was on the honor roll, and served in her senior year as the student coordinator for the school's blood drive, food drive, and book drive.
Julie says she is excited to start studying elementary education and plans to become a teacher. She is impressed by St. Mary's environmental efforts and hopes "to get involved in some of the hard work of keeping the
Kelsey Wood '12
When Kelsey came to visit St. Mary's, she met some of the professors who taught her dad. "I discovered that college is more thanjust an education....All of these people—my father, my uncle, their alumni friends, the professors, and current students—have a spirit and sense of belonging that is indescribable." She may be a first-year, but Kelsey already has mapped out her future: She plans to major in biology with a focus on genetics, and go on to graduate school. While attending Northeast High School in Pasadena, Maryland, Kelsey impressed the faculty with her standards for service, leadership, and integrity. She was not only president of the National Honor Society, but also earned five varsity letters. She can't wait until "four years from now I will be able to call myself a St. Mary's alum."
Alece Kaplan '05
After graduating from St. Mary's in 2005 with a B.A. in English, Alece joined AmeriCorps. She worked in Seattle and completed two terms of service. Alece still lives in Seattle with her husband and is working towards a master's degree in occupational therapy at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. She chose the field of occupational therapy because she believes "that the ability to autonomously participate in meaningful activity is crucial to an individual's feelings of self-worth and personal fulfillment." Alece enjoys urban hiking, music, volunteering, and learning everything she can about rehabilitation medicine.