Montserrat “Montse” Cancino-Aguilar
Knox College
Michele and Peter S. Willmott Minority Student Leadership Fund

It wasn’t easy for Montse Cancino-Aguilar to leave the southside of Chicago for Knox College in Galesburg. She knew that Knox was a good school and a place to grow. But interacting with people different from her was new, and she was often homesick. Fortunately, she says, Knox stresses diversity, inclusion and open-mindedness, ideals that were important to her, she says.

Now a sophomore, Cancino-Aguilar majors in biology, includes minors in Latin American studies and environmental sciences. “I want to go to medical school or go to graduate school first in botany or holistic medicine first, and then go to medical school, ” she says. “I actually want to work in a Latin American country because their ways of practicing medicine are more holistic than the United States, and they’re more hospitality-based. I want to do something that I really enjoy, and that’s working with people but at the same time, expressing my love for the sciences.”

Cancino-Aguilar makes the most of her Knox education. When not in class, she is treasurer of Lo Nuestro, a cultural club focused on Latino awareness, a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and an alternate resident assistant. She also works in the college’s financial aid office, where her bilingual skills are helpful.

Her ACI scholarship through the Willmott Fund is a vital piece of her college education, most which she funds on her own. “I am at Knox thanks to that. It honestly made all of the difference in whether I could come back to Knox.  If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be here. Both of my parents were unemployed my entire freshman year.”

“I want to say thank you,” Cancino-Aguilar says. “This a really tough topic for me to talk about. I have had to help my parents pay their bills, and I’ve had to buy my siblings clothes and shoes because my parents couldn’t. So, I’m incredibly thankful to those people who don’t know who I am but gave me the opportunity to come back and finish everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Thanks to the Willmott Fund scholarship that I have from ACI, I am here at Knox continuing my education as a first-generation student.”

Tiniya “Tini” Wright-Bell
Judson University
ACI General Scholarship

Tini Wright-Bell thought that after high school she would go far away to college, perhaps to a school in California. But her grandmother heard an ad for Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, while listening to Pandora, the online music service, and suggested she check it out. “We came to a preview day, and the rest is history, says Wright-Bell, a junior psychology major. “I came here, and I love it.”

Wright-Bell, from Glendale Heights, Illinois, says for the past 13 years, her mother has been missing, a reason why she studies psychology. “I kind of wanted to help other children who might feel alone like in my situation, not having a parent. I wanted to be sure to let them know there is someone there that cares about them,” she says, adding she has a specific interest in child advocacy.

To supplement her education, Wright-Bell has interned at the Elgin Boys and Girls Club, which she describes as a safe place for students after school, providing meals and homework help. She is also a member of the university’s Spirit Squad.

Wright-Bell’s ACI General Scholarship has made it possible for her to reside on campus, a big help, she says. “Last year, I was a commuter. That commute was very hectic in the mornings when I had to drive all the way back to Judson every single morning. It help me get back on campus and be part of the culture again,” Wright-Bell says. She is also grateful for donors that provided funds for the scholarship. “You may be able to help a student get out of a bad situation,” she says of donors. “You’re also helping that student be able to be part of the community and be part of college life.”

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