Madison McCabe
Quincy University
McGraw Foundation Emergency Financial Aid 

The pandemic of 2020-2021 was especially tough for Madison McCabe. Money was tight. The pandemic took away her ability to work as a waitress, a difficult problem for a student who finances most of her own education though grants, scholarships and jobs. At the end of the fall semester in 2020, she was quarantined at home, sick with a case of COVID-19. Compounding the problem, she faced a difficult final semester at Quincy University with a bigger course load.

“I had to learn how to cope with my stress,” McCabe said. “But with the help of my classmates, my professors and family, I was able to finish.” McCabe, who transferred to Quincy after two years at a community college, graduated in spring 2021 with a degree in biology.

She initially thought she would go to a graduate professional school to become a dentist, a longtime interest of hers, but changed her mind. This fall, she hopes to attend dental hygiene school after working this summer in a dental office in her hometown of Edina, Missouri. One day, she may attend dentistry school. “I just wasn’t ready for four more very difficult years ahead of me,” she said. “I decided I wanted to work a little bit … I felt this would give me a better opportunity to know more about dentistry.”

At Quincy, McCabe’s biology coursework was challenging, limiting her ability to work. The pandemic compounded the problem.  McCabe got some much-needed financial help from Quincy University’s financial aid office and ACI – a grant from the McGraw Foundation Emergency Financial Aid Fund. “I was really fortunate to get that,” she said. “It was amazing because they understood I wanted to work, but I just couldn’t with my schoolwork.” The emergency funds, combined with other scholarships and grants, also made it possible for McCabe to complete her degree without taking out new loans as she approached graduation.

“This past year was difficult for everyone. It really came at the perfect time for me personally,” she said of the McGraw Foundation grant. “I just wasn’t making enough money as is, so it would have been really stressful, and I would have had to find a way to get extra money to pay for school.”

While at Quincy University, McCabe worked in the financial aid office for one year and was a part-time waitress. She was member of the university’s Science Club and treasurer of the Pre-Professional Science Club.

“I cannot wait to continue my education. I’m thankful for Quincy University, and I’m excited for what my future might hold,” McCabe added.

Juan Rios-Narciso
Illinois Wesleyan University
ACI General Scholarship

Juan Rios-Narciso is an entrepreneur and business owner who also happens to be a college student majoring in philosophy at Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU). Rios-Narciso, one of three brothers in the family, says his mother, a housekeeper, and his father, a farmhand whom he worked with during summers, dreamed of owning a business. Inspired by their dream, Rios-Narciso has opened related businesses in Colfax, Illinois: “Azteca Pan,” a bakery he operates with this mother, and most recently, “Sabor de Mexico” or “Taste of Mexico,” a restaurant that serves authentic Mexican food.

At the bakery, Rios-Narciso and his mother bake Mexican sweetbread, a favorite of his growing up. Over the years, his mother perfected her recipe. “We’d get it from the stores every week. But now, I don’t have to. I can go talk to my mom, and then we’ll make bread together. That’s really what the bakery is,” he says. The restaurant idea is Rios-Narciso’s way of preserving traditional Mexican food, not the same as “Tex-Mex” food commonly served in the U.S. “I wanted to try to find a way to preserve Mexican tradition, and of course, preserve my mother’s cooking as well. I always said she has the best food. Now I’m going to prove it,” Rios-Narciso says.

All of this is happening while he concludes his junior year at IWU. Originally from Arrowsmith, Illinois, Rios-Narciso was introduced to IWU during a school trip to visit colleges. Soon after starting at IWU, Rios-Narciso focused his many interests on philosophy, political science and entrepreneurship. He had never taken a philosophy course until college, and it was ethics, in particular, that spurred his interest in the topic. He’s also interested in immigration policy and reform, which is why he also takes political science courses. And after college? “I plan to go to law school with an MBA dual-degree program. Of course, I’ll still be running the business,” he says. And later, he wants to serve in public office.

Helping to make Rios-Narciso’s dreams comes true is an ACI General Scholarship. “All of the scholarships and all of the aid I received have been really helpful,” he says. “It not only takes the weight off my parents, but also myself. It’s definitely helped me in tremendous ways.” Rios-Narciso is also grateful for scholarship donors. “I just want to say thank you from me and my family for letting me have this opportunity and letting me have this experience in college,” he adds.

As part of his college experience, Rios-Narciso participates in IWU’s Philosophy Club, the university’s Ethics Bowl Team and is a philosophy tutor. He’s also part of the university’s Spanish and Latino Student Association and has worked at a grocery store and several restaurants.

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