Morgan Mendiola
Lewis University
A. Montgomery Ward Foundation Scholarship

Morgan Mendiola, Romeoville, Illinois, set her sights on becoming a teacher and possibly, a college professor. She chose to attend nearby Lewis University, with a dual major in secondary education and psychology. Now a sophomore, Mendiola made it through her freshman year, the pandemic year of 2020-2021. She says she made many friends and worked with great instructors.

“I thought Lewis was perfect for me because not only is it really close to my home, but it also had the majors that I wanted,” she says. Plus, Mendiola wanted to attend a college that was different from the school her older brother and sister attend, Joliet Junior College. Both work in a hospital, she says. Her father is an engineer, and her mother is a nurse.

Her decision to become a teacher goes back to her high school days. “Once I got to high school, especially during my junior and senior years, I really had a passion for it, for teaching. I realized that I wanted my focus to be specifically on high schoolers because I had some really rough times when I was in high school. I know that my teachers were my backbone. I want to repay that kindness,” she says. She’d like to teach psychology or sociology, or other subjects in the social sciences. Mendiola also hopes to teach at the college level one day. “I feel like college professors have such a passion for what they do, and they really are incredible people,” she said.

A financial aid counselor at Lewis University helped connect Mendiola with the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation Scholarship through ACI. Like many students, Mendiola finances much of her education through grants, loans and scholarships, with some help from her parents. “The last semester, spring of 2021, I definitely was struggling a lot financially. I did a bit of math with it. I realized the only way for me to stay afloat with all of my bills as well as paying for tuition, I would not only have to be a full-time student, but I would have to be a full-time employee.”

The A. Montgomery Ward Foundation scholarship made a significant difference. “I don’t think I would have been able to finish off this semester as strong as I did without the help of this scholarship,” she says. “It really saved me. Those who helped fund the scholarship, really did help me a lot.”

The pandemic limited Mendiola’s chances to join clubs or participate in extracurricular activities at Lewis University, but she hopes to change that this coming year. Away from school, she works on the wait staff at an independent- and assisted-living facility for older adults, a job Mendiola says “is fascinating and fun.”

Mendiola is grateful for her college experience made possible in part by her scholarship through ACI. “Scholarships and donors can really have an impact on students,” she adds.

Carlos Robles
Saint Xavier University
ACI General Scholarship 

Carlos Robles will graduate with a degree in finance from Saint Xavier University in December 2021 — earlier than he expected, thanks in part to an ACI General Scholarship. What led him to a career in finance began with a job in a Chicago-area grocery chain. Born in Ecuador, Robles came to the United States as an infant with his older sisters and his mother, Luz. The family lives in Chicago.

“I actually got into finance because right after high school,” Robles said. “I got a job at Jewel-Osco, in the meat market. I just took my manager’s advice and kept progressing. A year or two after I started, he started showing me the financial world of the meat market, and I started learning about the numbers about margin, profit, advertising and all that comes with finance. I just took a love for it.” He also earned a promotion to assistant manager in the department.

Robles’ mentor told him about Saint Xavier, its affordable tuition, and small classes, which he preferred. After attending a community college, Robles transferred to Saint Xavier in 2019, and began taking classes in finance. A first-generation college student, he says it’s important to him to earn a degree because of the sacrifices his mother made. “She had to leave her country and everything behind and come here and give us the life that she wanted, a better life,” Robles says. “I just stay focused and maintain the end goal, which is to graduate and show my mom that all the sacrifices that she did, all the things she went through, it was worth it at the end.” Robles will soon join his three sisters soon as the family’s fourth college graduate. Robles has already interviewed at a few companies, looking for a diverse organization that helps build communities, he said.

Robles was awarded his ACI General Scholarship after inquiring with the financial aid staff about scholarships. The scholarship provided funds at a time when his family was struggling after his mother got laid off from her job as a hotel chef. Robles and his sisters contributed funds from their jobs to help with household expenses. “It (the scholarship) helped immensely. I was grateful for that. Because in the times of Covid, it was much appreciated,” Robles said. The ACI scholarship helped Robles meet tuition expenses earlier this year, and it enabled him to save funds for summer classes. Finishing those classes made it possible for him to graduate one semester early.

Robles expressed his appreciation to the donors who made his scholarship possible. “I was in a situation where I felt at times whether I could further my education or I had to take a break from my education,” he said. “It’s going to help someone who truly wants to better themselves, and get out of where they are now and improve their life overall.”

At Saint Xavier, Robles is part of the Alpha organization for students who are Latino. He continues to work at Jewel-Osco, and wants to stay and work in the Chicago area after graduation.

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