Kelsey Schultz 
McKendree University
A. Montgomery Ward Foundation Scholarship

Now in her senior year at McKendree University, Lebanon, Kelsey Schultz is working toward a classroom career as an elementary school teacher. “When I was 12, I started tutoring and volunteering with kids in the second-grade level,” she says. “I fell in love with spending time with them. I related with them well, especially when I was 12, but now at 22, I still feel the same connection to them that I had then.”

Schultz commutes to McKendree from Bellville and is an elementary education major. “When I decided I wanted to go into teaching, I looked at the different teaching universities in the area, within a 5-hour distance. McKendree ranked very high,” Schultz says. In addition, Schultz is seeking a special education endorsement, which she says will help her serve students better because students with special needs are often in general education classrooms.

Schultz’s ACI scholarship through the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation is helpful, she says. “With tuition at McKendree being $40,000 a year, it’s impossible to go without any sort of aid,” she says. “So, the scholarship from Montgomery Ward has helped in lowering the total of my tuition over the course of my four years. It’s one more thing not to worry about.”

“I am extremely grateful for all of the scholarships I’ve been able to receive over the years,” she adds. “In the future, I hope to be able to give back to college students as well, because it’s absolutely helped me be able to be here.”

Schultz also has a scholarship from the Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service and performs 30 hours of community service, including tutoring and recreation with children every semester. “I led a program at the Christian Activity Center for the past two years where we brought kids from East Saint Louis to Lebanon to provide them with a college experience to make them want to come back and further their education,” she says. And Schultz volunteers to spend time with adults with special needs at Trinity Services in nearby Mascoutah and works at the university library.

Darcy Graham
Concordia University Chicago
ACI Peer Mentoring Program

Darcy Graham, from Gross Pointe Woods, Michigan, thought she was going to attend a college near her home in Michigan. But while on a spring-break trip to Chicago, she decided to visit Concordia University Chicago in River Forest. Graham liked what she saw and was able to connect with the cross-country coach so she could continue her running career. Graham is interested in a career as a professional social worker in areas to address child abuse, or working with child protective services or with women and children who have suffered abuse.

A first-generation student, Graham met Blanca Gutierrez, who taught a freshman class to new students. Gutierrez is director of the university’s Office of Multicultural & First-Generation Student Engagement. Graham said she needed help with tuition payments, and Gutierrez suggested she join the Peer Mentoring Program. Among other things, she got help completing the challenging FAFSA, a standard application for all students seeking federal financial aid.

Graham says funding provided through the Peer Mentoring Program helped her purchase books. “I wouldn’t have had enough this semester to get them had it not been for this program,” she says.

Graham says her peer mentor, Jorge Palacios, has been helpful since the beginning of her freshman year, offering support and encouragement. “One of the things he did that was really cool is at the beginning of this year is he gave us all goals. And, he always talks about the importance of internships and jobs,” Graham says. Another benefit of peer mentoring, says Graham, is that she has friends who can offer advice and suggestions about navigating college life. “I can go to Blanca or Jorge because they’ve been through it,” she says.


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