Jun 10, 2016
SALT LAKE CITY — After her first year of college, Denise Gonzalez has completed more education than anyone in her family. As a first-generation college student, she’s dedicated to making her parents proud and benefitting from the opportunities of higher education.
“My parents grew up in poverty,” said Gonzalez who is currently a marketing major. “My grandmother was always working in order to provide [for her family], so my mom had to take care of her siblings-and going to school wasn’t an option. Since I have that option, scholarships are what make my education possible.”
This month, the college announces the creation of the Meldrum First-Generation Student Scholarship, a newly endowed scholarship that will make higher education dreams possible for more first-generation college students like Gonzalez. A $1 million grant from the Meldrum Foundation establishes the scholarship fund that will assist students in their quest to become the first members of their families to graduate from college.
Scholarships will be awarded to full-time, first-generation first-year students, based on financial need. First-year student recipients will be known as “Meldrum Scholars.” Scholarship funds may also be awarded to first-generation upperclassmen who have demonstrated financial need for degree completion and are in good academic standing. Multiple scholarships will be awarded each year to students. The amount of the scholarships is not pre-determined, so the Financial Aid Office will have the flexibility to award fewer, larger awards or many, smaller awards, depending on need.
“Westminster greatly appreciates the wonderful partnership we have enjoyed with Pete and Cathie Meldrum for decades,” said Staci Carson, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Westminster. “The Meldrum family’s commitment to education goes beyond financial support. We are grateful for Pete’s leadership on our board of trustees and the Science Advisory Technology Board and Cathie’s decades of volunteering with the Woman’s Board.”
This year, more than a quarter of Westminster students applying for financial aid were first-generation students. The Meldrum’s gift helps Westminster in its commitment to remain as affordable as possible for students. More than 95 percent of incoming students receive some form of financial aid, including merit-based or need-based scholarships, student loans and work-study opportunities. Westminster’s Financial Aid Office works with students one-on-one to ensure they receive all the assistance they are eligible for.
For first-generation students like Denise Gonzalez, scholarships are one more motivator to succeed. Gonzalez’s first year at Westminster included a lot of firsts that have made her more determined than ever. She was starting point guard for Westminster’s Women’s Basketball Team. She went camping and horseback riding for the first time and visited Utah’s national parks.
“I was also looking for a place that was totally different than what I was used to,” she said. “I know I’ll finish at Westminster with knowledge, experiences and opportunities that I could only get with a college degree.”