Michaela Young
Eureka College
Michele and Peter S. Wilmott Minority Student Leadership Award

Michaela Young first learned about Eureka College through a college admissions counselor. At the time, she was a high school sophomore in Chicago. She saw the same counselor at college fairs through her senior year, who encouraged her to think about attending Eureka. As she considered other schools, Eureka College offered her scholarship funds. When things didn’t work out at historically black universities in Mississippi and Tennessee, Young worked with a mentor to determine Eureka’s offer was best. “So, the following week was move-in day,” she recalls. “I never stepped foot on the Eureka College campus until my move-in day. I didn’t know anyone at all.”

Eventually, Young began to meet people and participate in activities. Four years later, she recalls getting over early stage fright through singing. “I knew my music. Singing was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I’ve learned so much these last two years that I didn’t learn before.” Young cited Dr. Adriana Martinez, Dr. Joe Henry and Pamela Bates for helping her learn through singing. Along the way, she taught herself guitar and is learning piano.

Being a student at Eureka has given Young a chance to sing jazz and opera. Opera, she says, is not a music type she believed she could sing well. But after her junior recital, audience members and professors told her she had a great operatic voice. “That made me believe in myself,” she says. She has also sung in talent shows, at conferences, on stage in Chicago, and for six years, with HHW School for the Performing Arts in Chicago. Young also picked up a theater minor last year and directed her first play.

Helping to make her singing career possible is the Michele and Peter S. Wilmott Minority Student Leadership Award through ACI. Earning the scholarship was “like a breath of fresh air,” Young says. “It humbled me a lot because people around my campus are noticing that I’m actually trying to put a step forward,” she says. “The scholarship took a load off of me. It’s a huge load off of what I had to do last year.” In that year, Young had multiple on-campus jobs to help meet tuition costs. She used the Wilmott scholarship to pay for tuition.

This year, Young is president of the Multicultural Student Union at Eureka and is president of the campus activities board as well.

After graduation, Young plans to travel the world and sing where she can, and eventually attend graduate school. Recalling her experience attending a Chicago Public Schools Advanced Arts Program at Gallery 37 Center for the Arts in the city, Young also wants to open an arts-inspired school in Chicago for inner-city youth.

Madison Nickrent
Illinois College
McGraw Foundation Emergency Financial Aid

Like many students, Madison Nickrent decided to attend Illinois College because of its small campus and the small class sizes. Now a junior majoring in elementary education, Nickrent says her classes continue to be small. “I only have six students in four of my classes, so the teacher knows how we’re doing, and they really know us,” she says. “For me, that’s what I really wanted out of school – to not just be a number, to be an actual student, and how someone could care about me and realize when we’re not in class or realize when something’s going on.”

Originally a psychology major, Nickrent, from Bloomington, Illinois, says she took many psychology classes. But she found her real interest was in becoming a teacher of fourth and fifth graders. She switched majors in her sophomore year.

In addition to teaching, Nickrent is a residential hall director at Illinois College, a learning experience related to teaching, she says. “It definitely teaches you time management, how to deal with conflict and how to deal with people who are struggling and how you can help them,” Nickrent says. She is in the Literary Society at Illinois College, which does various literary productions and community service, and she works at a day care in town.

About a year ago, Nickrent’s father died, the result of an infection after leaving the hospital. She needed financial aid help to remain in school and spoke to the Financial Aid Director Becky Birdsell, who helped connect with her a McGraw Foundation Emergency Financial Aid grant through ACI. “It’s helped me this semester not having to work two jobs, to stay a student here,” she says. “It freed up a lot of my time being able to get that money and keep going with my education and not always worrying about how I’m going to pay for it.”

The McGraw grant was critical, she says. She is one of four children. One has Down Syndrome and her younger sister is also in college now, and there are many financial challenges.

“These scholarships help students stay at the school that they want to be at and they love,” Nickrent adds. “It really helps the student that needs it. I would also like to say thank you so much for donating.”


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