Union senior makes it through college with the help of scholarships and pandemic funds
Students choose to attend Union because they know the personal mentorship, career preparation and spiritual community will set them up to succeed in life. And for many, hard work and a little help from the alumni family make the Union experience possible.
Just ask Hannah Roberts, a senior business major from Kentucky. With the help of scholarship funds and the Emergency Relief Grant funded by donors and the federal government, she’s been able to find her calling through her Union College education.
Roberts didn’t even bother applying to other colleges. She knew Union was the place for her. Two brothers and a sister-in-law had preceded her, so it was a family tradition. She liked the idea of a smaller school that offered more individualized attention. When she visited for Preview Days, she was officially hooked. “I fell in love with the family feel of campus,” she says. “One of the big things for me was a connection with God, so family worship drew me in, and afterglow was one of the coolest things I’d ever been part of.”
Knowing where she wanted to go was one thing, but paying for college was another. Fortunately, Roberts enrolled at just the right time. She qualified for a new four-year recurring scholarship that paid most of her tuition, and her work ethic made it possible for her to earn the rest of her expenses. When her academic scholarship ran out after her fourth year, generous donors paid on her bill and she qualified for a business program scholarship that helped cover the shortfall.
That financial help allowed her to follow her dreams and find her ideal future. In fall 2019, Roberts registered for a personal finance class. She had been an education major for four years and graduation was in sight, but that class showed her a glimpse of a different future—and she liked what she saw. “I’ve always been interested in finances, and I’ve always liked to budget,” she said, “But that class? I was honestly amazed. It made me switch my entire life track to be a business major.”
Now she’s looking forward to graduating in August 2021, and she hopes her business degree with an emphasis in small business management will land her a job with an organization she believes in. “With the foundation Union has given me with their classes and guidance, I know I’ll be able to easily work my way up to a manager position,” she says.
Roberts credits professor Dave Rickard with running a class so engaging and fun that she envisioned a new path, and she says her interactions with the business program staff and work as a teaching assistant for Rickard even changed the way she sees herself. “I’ve gained a lot of skills, and leadership is one of them,” she says. “I’ve always considered myself a shy leader—only leading out if I had to. But I learned I can jump in and go for it. I used to be quiet, but now I’m fierce.”
Perseverance is another skill she’s honed—especially lately. When the pandemic hit last March, most of Union’s students headed home to finish the spring semester. But Roberts recognized that she needed to stay. “I knew that if I was going to be here this year, I needed to work and apply as much money as possible to my school bill,” she says. Anyone wanting to stay on campus had to apply to do so, and Roberts was one of the few approved to remain. Even though it meant she wouldn’t be able to travel home to see her family, the sacrifice was worth it to her. She was able to work in the residence hall and put in enough hours to earn a summer bonus.
Then, CARES Act funds appropriated by Congress and donations from Union supporters through the #UnionStrong campaign added further relief. The funds were distributed among students, applied to wherever they’d be most beneficial. For Roberts, that meant another $750 went straight to her tuition bill. “Without Union’s donors, I don’t know if I would have been able to stay here as long as I have,” she says. And, indeed, that financial support and her hard work have reaped major benefits. “Between my scholarships, various donations put toward my school bill, the special fund, and working, currently I have no loans. If I can keep it that way, having no debt will free me to use my education to go further in life.”
Roberts says that it’s especially meaningful to her that Union’s alumni and friends are so willing to give back to help current students because giving is something she values, too. “I’m a giver, and I love helping others,” she says. “I will help them before I help myself. Giving is in my blood; it’s my love language.” Because of that, she says Project Impact days are some of her favorite memories at Union, and she is grateful for the experiences of gathering with her peers to serve the community. On a smaller scale, she says her dual loves of giving and budgeting combine to empower random acts of kindness. She uses her limited funds to share treats, cards and occasional trips to The Mill to support her friends—encouragement especially needed this year.
And it’s kindness she sees in the generous donations from Union College’s supporters. “In my personal experience and hearing friends’ experiences, if it weren’t for scholarships and donations, many of us wouldn’t be able to attend an Adventist institution,” she says. “There’s something different about Adventist schools, and I’d be so devastated if I couldn’t stay here. I know Adventist education is expensive, but it’s so special and worth the money and the hard work. It’s an adventure that’s worth it. It’s going to get me somewhere in life.”
By Lauren Bongard Schwarz, a Union College graduate
and freelance writer in Bozeman, Montana.