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Salish Kootenai College Alum Uses Education to Inspire Future Students

This article was originally published in the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s 2023 annual report about Salish Kootenai College, which partnered with the Foundation to create a scholarship endowment for Indigenous students pursuing business and entrepreneurship. Click here to read more content from the annual report.

Makenzi Skellenger (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. She always knew she wanted to attend college, but recognized it would be a challenge to finance that dream.

Skellenger began attending Salish Kootenai College (SKC) in 2017 to study business administration. Worried about taking on student loans, she did everything possible to independently fund her degree. In her first year, she held two jobs to make ends meet. She also had a long daily commute to work and classes.

During her sophomore year, Skellenger received the Johnson Scholarship. This lifted some of her financial burden so she could take on more meaningful work opportunities. She started as a work-study student at SKC and accepted every internship and opportunity that crossed her path.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to continue my education if it [weren’t] for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation,” Skellenger said. “They allowed me to focus on my academic career and find my passion at SKC. They are also helping support my MBA so that I can bring my knowledge back to my reservation.”

 

Makenzi Skellenger (wearing a red top) poses for a photo with fellow Gonzaga alumni and JSF staff after the university’s May 2024 commencement.

In 2021, the Johnson Scholar graduated with her bachelor’s degree. But Skellenger didn’t stop there. Along her journey, she discovered a passion for teaching. Recognizing the power of education, she wanted to continue her studies and become a faculty member at Salish Kootenai College—something she believes would not have been possible without JSF.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to continue my education if it [weren’t] for the Johnson Scholarship Foundation,” she said. “They allowed me to focus on my academic career and find my passion at SKC. They are also helping support my MBA so that I can bring my knowledge back to my reservation.”

Since 1992, JSF’s Entrepreneurship Scholarship program has provided scholarships to Indigenous students in business or entrepreneurship. This has supported over 200 students throughout their time at SKC. By covering tuition, fees, and other educational expenses, students can focus on academics, pursue opportunities such as paid internships, and attend events like the American Indigenous Business Leaders annual conference.

Skellenger continues to make her dreams a reality. She joined the SKC business education faculty in January 2023. She also became a Johnson Scholar at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, recently earning her MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship—a program that JSF created with the university in 2001. She hopes to bring her learnings from Gonzaga to SKC to bridge the gap between tribal colleges and higher education, inspire others, and be the change.

Landmark College Student Excels in Education

Sam Mayo smiles for the camera, sitting on a park bench. He is wearing a light blue shirt, a patterned blue tie, and navy pants. He has short blond hair.

This article was originally published in the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s 2023 annual report about Landmark College, a grantee partner of the foundation. Click here to read more content from the annual report.

Sam Mayo, a person with autism, had a significant speech impediment as a young boy. As he got older, school became more of a challenge. By junior high, he had been labeled a troublemaker. 

“His communication skills made it difficult for people to understand him,” his mother Stephanie Mayo said. “He would zone out but then come back, and Sam didn’t want to raise his ideas or questions. One teacher thought he was an incredible kid, but everyone else came down on him. That was heartbreaking.” 

Stephanie knew her son’s education was at stake, so she enrolled him in a homeschool resource center in their hometown of Lexington, South Carolina. When it was time to think about Sam’s future, Stephanie had to face a new challenge. She learned about Landmark College’s dual enrollment program from her sister, who taught science at the homeschool center. 

In 2022, the Mayos visited Landmark College to learn about the online dual enrollment program, which JSF helps fund through a matching grant. Located in Putney, Vermont, the college provides highly accessible learning approaches to individuals who learn differently. 

“I looked all over. Many schools had a department for kids who learn differently—but these kids don’t have a neon sign,” said Stephanie, explaining that not every student learns the same way. “As soon as we got on campus, I knew what Landmark was about. It was an easy decision.” 

“He was excited and also a bit apprehensive about dual enrollment, college-level education,” she wrote in an email. “[Landmark went] out of their way to make him feel heard, accepted, and understood.” 

Just two weeks after Sam started taking classes, his attitude toward schoolwork changed. That fall, Stephanie learned about the Johnson Scholarship. 

“We knew the tuition cost—we were looking at the yearly tab thinking, ‘Oh, help!’” she recalled. “The scholarship covered nearly all of the costs, and gave Sam the opportunity to get to know Landmark’s style and prepare for an actual college experience.” 

“As soon as we got on campus, I knew what Landmark was about. It was an easy decision.”

Sam is currently a freshman* at Landmark, where he says he’s glad to be near other students with autism. Sending a child to college is a big change for any parent. Still, Stephanie says she feels safe knowing her son is at Landmark. 

“For the first time in his life, [Sam] is interested in his own education and pushing himself,” she said. “We are so proud of him, and I tell him that all the time.”

 

 

Sam Mayo was a freshman at the time this article was written.

Regalia of Resilience: PBA Grad Reflects on the Power of Education

Palm Beach Atlantic grad Niang Thang smiles for the camera. She has dark long hair and is wearing an ivory blouse.This article was originally published by our grantee partner, Palm Beach Atlantic University. It is shared here with permission.

Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) graduate and Fulbright recipient Niang Thang 24 knows a thing or two about the importance of education—though she didnt always believe in it. Over the past seven years, shes seen how higher education, mentorship, and the transformative power of belief can help someone move from feeling stuck to living out their dreams.

Niang Thang lives with her parents, who are immigrants from Myanmar, in West Palm Beach. During her early high school years, Thang struggled with her mental health and some academic challenges.

Thangs parents went into panic mode, unsure of how to respond to their only childs struggles. Their solution? Pray.

They loved and cared for me; they wanted to do what was best,” she shared. They turned to God—they said, We dont know what to do, so the only thing we can do is trust [Him] and His will.’”

Finding Academic Renewal at PBA

A couple of years later, Niang Thang was ready for something more.

Something sparked in me,” she reflected. I wanted to build a future for myself.”

She heard about PBA from her friends sister, who attended the university. Though Niang Thang was reluctant to apply, her friend encouraged her.

A month later, Thang received her acceptance letter.

Thang entered PBA as a freshman in fall 2020, while navigating college life during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second-generation college student says her past experiences of learning how to manage her mental health helped her thrive during the pandemic.

Thang also credits her success to PBAs supportive community. She was particularly moved by the genuine care that faculty and staff demonstrated—especially as she entered PBA with an undeclared major.

When I was trying to choose, I met with my career mentor, Jennifer Fonseca,” she said. She guided me and helped me figure out my major. She had a willingness to help me.”

After diligently researching and identifying programs that best mirrored her passions and goals, Thang chose to study psychology and pursue a chemistry minor. She was also accepted into the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program.

Now, shes the Class of 2024 Outstanding Graduate of the psychology department.

I came into PBA as one person, now Im graduating as another,” Thang said. PBA had a big role in transforming me. I started with nothing—but I felt like I had such potential and big dreams.”

Thang added that she could focus on her academic and career goals thanks to the scholarships she received, including the 2024 Women of Distinction Scholarship, which gives funds to female students who excel in academics, service, and leadership, and the Johnson Scholarshipwhich is distributed to PBA students with demonstrated financial need.

They made it easier [for me] to go to school,” she said. My peers are worried about how to pay for school, or theyre in debt. I dont have to feel burdened because I dont have to work and sacrifice my grades. The scholarships saved me and my parents from that financial burden. I am honored to have been chosen.”

In addition to easing the financial pressures, the scholarships enabled Thang to thrive in a full-time academic routine—which, in turn, helped spark conversations with her parents about her hopes and dreams.

We started talking about my future and my passions,” she shared. They were very open-minded. I would have thought that they wanted me to go into pre-med! But I was comfortable talking with them.”

Looking Ahead: Fulbright and Future Goal

This summer, Thang will embark on a year-long English teaching assistantship to Taiwan under the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Though she wasnt initially planning to apply, a professor urged her to consider it, and she took a leap of faith. Guided by Dr. Carl Miller, associate professor of English and PBA faculty coordinator for the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, Thang prepared her application last semester while also applying to graduate programs.

Last month, she learned that she received the Fulbright.

Tears started flowing; I was in utter shock. I couldnt believe it,” Thang said, adding that these moments remind her to believe in herself. People would think I was a failure with no future—but there was something in me that said I knew better.”

After her teaching assistantship, Thang wants to continue her education and become a clinical psychologist.

No matter what, I can do and achieve much more,” she reflected. PBA is something special—Ive never encountered people like this. These professors are investing in our lives, and their belief in me [reminded me] that I can thrive. I dont think I would have done as well as I did if I attended another school.”

To learn more about PBA’s psychology and counseling programs, click here.

To watch PBA’s 2024 Commencement recap video, click here

 

Palm Beach Atlantic University is a core grantee partner of JSF. At the bequest of its founders, the Foundation distributes $1.2 million to PBA each year. The funds provide scholarships to qualified students who wish to pursue higher education but cannot otherwise afford to do so.

Lisa Loomis Joins JSF as Executive Coordinator

Julia Duresky/CAPEHART

The Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF) is pleased to welcome Lisa H. Loomis to its team of staff members.

Loomis joined the Johnson Scholarship Foundation in May 2024 and serves as the Executive Coordinator. In this role, she assists the CEO and serves as a key liaison between the CEO and the Foundation’s grantees and board.

Loomis previously worked at Palm Beach Atlantic University on the development team to secure funds for student scholarships through the highly respected Women of Distinction luncheon that honors local female philanthropists and annually awards scholarships to deserving female students at PBA. She also led the work of their Alumni Association Golf Tournament, which raised needed funds and distributed scholarships to over 40 students annually. She was the Executive Director of The Palm Beach Police & Fire Foundation, where she administered all the development and administrative activities of the foundation.

Loomis has called West Palm Beach home since 1994, when she joined her husband in his hometown after they both graduated from Stetson University. She and her husband are the proud parents of two daughters.

Providence St. Mel Student Earns 36 on ACT

This article was originally published in the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s 2023 annual report about Providence St. Mel School, a grantee partner of the foundation. Click here to read more content from the annual report.

Mario Hoover earned the nickname “Mr. 36” from achieving a perfect ACT score in 2022. He was the first student at Providence St. Mel School (PSM) to earn the accomplishment. 

Located on Chicago’s West Side, Providence St. Mel has offered preschool through high school students a high-quality education for more than four decades. JSF provides a matching grant for the school’s Paul J. Adams III Purple & Gold Scholarship Fund. The fund, named after Chicago civil rights activist, educator, and PSM founder, offers vital financial and academic support to economically disadvantaged students during their middle and high school years.

“I never imagined I would get a perfect score,” Hoover said to ABC7 Chicago—one of several interviews in which he participated. “To me, it means doing the best that I can to boost my academic career and professional career to inspire others to do the same.” 

Hoover began attending PSM in the third grade after his public elementary school closed. Christel Ward, PSM’s dean of students, recalls having him in class. 

“To me, it means doing the best that I can to boost my academic career and professional career to inspire others to do the same.”

 

“I watched Mario grow up and excel,” said Ward, who has worked at PSM for over 25 years. “Because of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we’ve been able to help students excel and get ready for college.” 

Following that top ACT score, Hoover kept pursuing his studies. The summer before his senior year, Hoover attended a two-week program at the University of Oxford to study neuroscience. 

A PSM student works on an assignment in the classroom during a site visit from the JSF team in September 2023.

In addition to achieving a perfect ACT score and a 3.9 GPA, Hoover participated in PSM’s concert choir and on the track and debate teams. He also tutored social studies and English and volunteered at a nearby hospital and the local Boys & Girls Club. During his senior year, he competed in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Series for solo and ensemble, earning a Division I rating and an IHSA All-State Honorable Mention. He also advanced to the Chicago regional finals of the August Wilson Monologue Competition, which introduces students to the 20th-century playwright and his American Century Cycle through workshops and masterclasses. 

Now, Hoover is a freshman at the University of Chicago, a top research institution, on a full scholarship. He’s majoring in neuroscience and pursuing a minor in music. His hard work and accomplishments exemplify the power of education and Providence St. Mel’s commitment to its students—including those who may not be able to afford a private school education. 

“Education changes lives,” said Ward. “It isn’t just an investment in yourself. You’re using that tool to make a difference somewhere else—individually, in your school, or in your community. Change is about not staying where you were. It’s progress.”

10 Things I Learned About Grantmaking

JSF Board Chair Malcolm Macleod has learned a great deal during his more than 30 years of working in philanthropy. He has been instrumental at the Foundation in implementing impactful grant-making strategies that help disadvantaged people groups pursue education and employment opportunities.

Here, he shares some of his lessons learned, which are discussed in more detail in his recently published book, “The Practice of Philanthropy: A Guide for Foundation Boards and Staff.”

It’s written for donors big and small—whether they are foundations or families who want to make the world a better place.

Read on to learn how effective grantmaking can have major impact on your grantee partners and your organization.

 

1. Grants are investments

Practice grantmaking like you mean it. Whether you are making grants yourself or acting through staff, grantmaking activity must be purposeful and organized. Treat your grants like the precious investments they are.

Foundation investing is different from “for profit” investing. Financial success is uncorrelated to the quality of your grantmaking or the quality of your grantee partners. Your “return” is social benefit, not profit, and your strategies will be different. 

2. Knowledge is your foundation’s vital second asset

Foundation leaders should immerse themselves in their fields of interest. It is the best way to learn. This is where your ideas will come from. Knowledge and ideas will inform your strategy and make it better. Learning is at the heart of good grantmaking practice. 

3. There is a power imbalance

When you deal with potential grantees, the most important thing for you to understand and always remember is that there is a gross inequality of bargaining power between foundation and grantee. This makes it difficult for grantees to trust foundations and inhibits honest dialogue. It can also interfere with the grantmaking process and make the foundation’s work more difficult. The power imbalance cannot be eliminated, but foundation behavior that demonstrates trust in its grantee partner should, over time, mitigate its effects.

4. Grantmaking is an iterative process

Great ideas do not usually arrive in final form. They build on each other and improve. The practice of good grantmaking often leads to better grantmaking. Knowledgeable grantmakers can play a big part in the iterative process of ideas and help propel the evolution of strategy.  

5. Foundation grantees are partners

Do not use the term “partner” in a patronizing or careless way. Realize that your grantee partners are the ones who do the work of advancing your foundation’s mission. You need them as much as they need you. You invest, they work. Once you commit to the concept of partnership there are two things that follow. Choose grantees carefully. Choose grantee partners you can trust and treat them with respect. They invariably know more about their work and the related issues than you. They are the teachers, and you are the student. 

6. Give grantees the tools. 

The best grants are those that empower people and organizations to be more independent. 

7. Embrace risk (and failure)

Foundation grants are risk capital. Allocate some or all of your grants to new organizations and ideas. Foundations are free. They are independent of the marketplace and public approval. 

New ideas and methods will require foundations to be different, to go against the grain of conventional thinking. Foundation independence permits this. Setbacks and failures are a necessary part of innovation. Have the courage to be honest with yourself and transparent with the world. This is a cultural issue for foundations. They must consciously create a culture that embraces risk and develop policies to reward bravery and innovation. Leaders must show humility and openness about their own mistakes and imperfections. This will give everyone the courage to speak up and advance new ideas. 

Risk is not the same thing as recklessness. Knowledge, experience, and strategy will inspire risk taking. Recklessness is born of ignorance and impulse. Know and practice the difference.  

8. Realize that some grantmaking is more difficult

Trying to help people solve seemingly intractable problems is a high calling for a grantmaker. Both grantmaker and grantee must feel their way along with all the self-doubt that this entails. If there were an easier way or even a clear course, it would likely have been found already. 

Grantmakers must be patient and accept small victories. There is usually no silver bullet. Slow progress is better than what preceded it (nothing). And if grantmakers won’t do it, who else can or will? Above all, be honest and transparent about your grants and results. There is much to learn from your experience.

9. Beware of unintended and unwanted consequences

Grantmakers should respect the power of money and not wave it around like a magic wand. The best insurance against unintended consequences is a good knowledge of, and an honest relationship with, your grantee partner.

10. Make freedom and independence your foundation’s greatest asset

Dedicate part of your grant budget to tackle difficult problems that others cannot or will not. The opportunities, large and small, are boundless, and they are out there waiting for you. Use your freedom to go out and find them.

 

About R. Malcolm Macleod, K.C.

Malcolm Macleod was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia in 1951. He obtained a B.A. in English (Honors) in 1975 and was awarded a Lord Beaverbrook Scholarship to study law at the University of New Brunswick.

Malcolm was admitted to the New Brunswick Bar in 1978 and to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1979. He joined the firm of Patterson, Smith, Mathews and Grant as an associate and practiced with that firm and its successors for over 25 years. During that time he served as managing partner and chair of the firm’s litigation department. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1997.

Malcolm joined the Johnson Scholarship Foundation as a trustee in 1993. He was elected secretary in 1995 and served in that position until 2001, when he was elected President and Chief Executive Officer. He retired from that role in April 2020 and accepted the Board’s invitation to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors.

You can read more of his insights in his newest book, which is available for purchase

Pathways to Education Canada: Strengthening Community Connections

This article was originally written by our grantee partner, Pathways to Education Canada. It is shared here with permission. 

 

After graduating from Pathways Winnipeg in 2018, Say Pa was committed to giving back to the program that supported her throughout high school. By staying connected as a Pathways tutor, she heard about an alumni event that helped her meet a whole network of Pathways Winnipeg graduates. The sense of community inspired Say Pa to become a Student Parent Support Worker (SPSW), and most recently she joined the Alumni Ambassador program to create similar moments of connection for her peers.

When Say Pa reflects on the Pathways Program’s impact on her life, the first thing that comes to mind is the community it’s brought her. In 2019, Say Pa attended an alumni event where she connected with many cohorts of Pathways Winnipeg graduates. Say Pa was already involved as a tutor at her local program location after graduation, but hearing other students’ experiences in the program reaffirmed her decision to take on an expanded role. She applied to become a Student Parent Support Worker, a dedicated staff member who helps students receive the same support that she had at Pathways.

“Pathways is my family—they’ve given so much to me that I want to give back,” Say Pa shares. “I want to give students the same feeling of belonging I received. Hopefully, one day, they’ll give back too.”

Say Pa’s dedication to helping others spans back to her childhood experience moving to Canada from Thailand. Initially a shy student, she credits the encouraging Pathways staff she had in high school for helping bring her out of her shell. Today, she’s working alongside those very same mentors to create a robust support system for other Winnipeg youth.

“I don’t want students to ever feel alone. In this community in the North End, young people are very vulnerable. I was born in a refugee camp due to the civil war in Myanmar, so I know what it feels like to have nothing,” Say Pa explains. “I just want to be that person in their life who they know will be there to listen to them, or if they need help at school, they trust that I will find a solution with them.”

With the return to in-person programming post-pandemic, Say Pa’s focused on bringing back opportunities for face-to-face connection, not just for current students—but for program alumni as well. Inspired by the event that started it all for her, Say Pa recently started volunteering as a Pathways Alumni Ambassador, joining a group of passionate young people from across the country who ensure that graduates stay connected to the Pathways community after graduation. Say Pa attended the Alumni Ambassador Orientation Weekend last fall, where she got the chance to connect with her fellow Alumni Ambassadors for the first time.

“It was so cool to connect and share my story with alumni from other locations. Even though the program is delivered differently in each community, we all have the same feeling toward Pathways.”

 

JSF supports Pathways’ National Scholarship Program, effectively increasing post-secondary participation rates among young people from low-income communities in Canada.

First-Generation College Grad Helps University of Florida Students Reach for Success

Growing up, Cherrelle “Elle” Collins dreamed of going to college like she saw on TV. She also wanted a career that would help people. Now as a first-generation college graduate, she’s living out her dream—empowering historically low-income, first-gen students at the University of Florida to reach for success like she did.

As director of the nationally recognized Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars (MFOS) Program—which JSF helps support through a matching grant—Collins works hard to ensure each student receives individualized attention and mentoring as they experience college life.

But without her own mentors guiding her along the way, she may not have pursued helping others through access work. 

Collins shares that her childhood was a mix of challenges and aspirations.

“College wasn’t something we talked about around the dinner table or dreamed about at a young age,” she explains. “I always felt inspiration from people who look like me on TV—series like The Cosby Show and how those people navigated college with success. That sparked this idea of college, and it took root in my mind as a possibility.” 

Thankfully, Collins had an army of mentors and educators supporting her during her elementary and teenage years. 

“I think about my fifth-grade English teacher and my cheer and dance coaches, who told me they saw potential in me,” she says.

As high school graduation neared, Collins and her mother began having serious conversations about her future. 

That got Collins thinking: Who did she want to be? She knew she wanted to go to college, but believed her educational outcomes needed to outweigh the cost of tuition. So, Collins focused on surgical technology, beginning her higher education journey at Niagara County Community College, outside of Buffalo, New York. In 2012, she received her associate’s degree before attending the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) as a nursing major.

But along the way, conversations with UB administrators and professors stirred something more in Collins.

“They helped me see my potential,” she recalls. “I thought there was only one way out—I had to [study] medicine or engineering to save my family from poverty. I recognized through those mentors that I could lean into what I was passionate about. And I wanted to be in a helping profession.”

Elle Collins at University of Florida. Photo courtesy of UF Student Life, by Matt August.

These fruitful discussions helped Collins realize she could help students with stories similar to hers. So, she switched her major to health and human services and graduated in 2014. She then pursued a master’s degree in higher education administration at UB. 

During that time, she also served as assistant director for college success initiatives at Say Yes Buffalo, which helps remove educational and employment barriers for students in area public and charter schools. While there, she helped open college success centers in over 20 high schools. 

It was the start of her dream career.

Sadly, something tragic happened in her first year of grad school. Collins lost her mother. 

“Everything reminded me of what I was going through,” she shares. “My mom, who was a woman of faith, always instilled this idea that you can run from something or you can run to something. You can sit in the pain and the grief—or use it to fuel your next thing.” 

Collins took that advice to heart, determined to start a new chapter. She began job searching in the spring of 2016, just before graduation.

“I didn’t see myself in New York anymore—I thought being home would help me get through grief, but I realized I needed to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she says. “I widened my search and started to look for other places that could give me something different.”

Collins searched with a specific idea in mind: the chance to work at a big university. 

“I wanted the sports, the bands, Greek life—those things my smaller schools up north didn’t have,” she explains. “As I went through the interview process at the University of Florida, [it felt] conversational. I could be myself. As I walked around, it gave me the feeling of what I saw growing up—what I thought college was like.”

In the fall of 2016, she moved from New York to Gainesville after accepting a housing and residence life position at UF. Less than nine months into her position, she was promoted from resident director to area coordinator. 

However, it didn’t take long before Collins told her supervisor that she was interested in transitioning into access and community work at the university. She was introduced to Dr. Leslie Pendleton, the senior director of the MFOS Program at the time. Collins says the program, a full financial need scholarship that assists historically low-income first-generation college students pursue education at UF, reminded her of a first-generation scholarship she received while at UB.

“I was encouraged to collaborate with and learn from her,” says Collins, who joined the MFOS team as director in 2022.

She says her work with Say Yes Buffalo and UF housing uniquely prepared her for her current role.

“They allowed me to hone in on leadership, communications skills, problem-solving, and strategic thinking,” she shares. “I understood not every Gator had the same experience, and we need to take an individualized approach. Housing is crisis management, it’s 24/7! I lived where I worked—so there was a deeper understanding of student needs.”

She describes her MFOS role as dynamic and fulfilling, especially when meeting with students, staff, and faculty or collaborating on new initiatives that enhance students’ experiences.

“Not every program will fit the needs of every student, so I want us to think deeply about enhancing that experience. What do first-year students need? They need help with transitions, [knowing] how to study the curriculum as a college student, and building community. Second-year students need help with their major declaration and doing more through leadership or service on campus. And the third- and fourth-year students are [navigating] that transition out.”

Each year, the MFOS Program serves over 1,600 individuals. The network is composed of about 6,000 students, including alumni and current students.

She believes the program is successful because of the approach to tailored support and a team of people with unwavering dedication to student success.

For Collins, working in the department is also a full-circle moment. 

“It’s an honor to give back and speak to the little version of myself,” she explains. “I see myself represented in many of the students’ stories, so giving back to a program that has played a similar role [in my life] is unexplainable.”

Her advice to Machen scholars? Believe in yourself, never underestimate the power of your dreams, and own your story. 

“I remember a time when I wasn’t always proud of [my story],” she says. “I believe that for many students who identify as first-generation or limited income, there can be a lot of shame associated with their journeys. Shame about leaving home, shame about not knowing all the answers, shame about upbringing. I believe there is power in owning our stories and sharing them more broadly to impact and change the trajectories of communities, systems, and structures.”

University of South Florida Student Uses Love of Reading to Impact Others

This article was written by Johnson Scholar Elaine Feaster, a student at the University of South Florida. It is shared here with permission.

A person stands by an outdoor lending library shaped like a small house on a pole and a box of children's books.

Elaine poses with a Little Lending Library at the University Area Community Park, where she donated books as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award.

My name is Elaine Feaster and I’m a recipient of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, which will help me pursue my academic and career goals. In August, I started at the University of South Florida in the College of Education. I’m so excited to officially begin working toward my profession in education—as I believe that the education of children is the foundation of our society. 

I’m studying to be a secondary social science teacher with my goal to get a PhD to eventually teach at the university level. I have always had a passion for helping others, as demonstrated through my over 475 service volunteer hours during high school, so I knew that helping others in some capacity would be at the heart of my career.

During my four years at Freedom High School in Tampa, I was a part of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, National Science Honor Society, National Latin Honor Society, Key Club, Environmental Club, FBLA, Best Buddies, and the varsity volleyball team. Outside of school, I have volunteered with the Girl Scouts, YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Greater Tampa Bay Blue Star Mothers, Metropolitan Ministries, and Oasis Opportunities. I have devoted many hours to the YMCA. For four years I was a youth volunteer coach for volleyball, where I mentored, helped, and encouraged young volleyball players to develop their skills and sportsmanship.

The volunteering I’m most proud of is the time I spent working on my Girl Scout Gold Award, focusing on Literary Awareness. When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with a reading disability, so literacy was at the top of ways I could give back. I began promoting literacy and getting books into the hands of children who didn’t have them.

This past summer I completed my Girl Scout Gold Award, where I collected and donated 4,400 books to at-risk students and communities (stamped with my website; now in total I have donated 11,500 books to underperforming schools), created a resource Literacy Portal Website—ScoutingForBooks.com—to help people understand the importance of reading, and I created a Book Buddy resource information packet (which can be downloaded from my website) on how schools can help struggling students with reading. I wanted to make a lasting impact in my community and help children, knowing that other students have similar challenges that I have.

Receiving this scholarship has helped me be able to live on campus, which I absolutely love. I’m close to my classes, I meet friends at the dining halls and pool, I’ve participated in many campus events and activities, and I use all of the study resources. USF is such a great school, with diverse communities and getting to meet so many new people. After taking a semester to get familiar with the school, I plan on joining a few clubs and organizations next semester getting more involved with the USF community. I enjoy my classes and making connections with my classmates and professors. Even though the university is big, I have gotten to know my instructors—and that connection is invaluable. I look forward to being a part of the USF community in the years to come.

Johnson Scholars Foundation Grants $50,000 to Palm Beach Atlantic University

This article was originally published by our grantee partner, Palm Beach Atlantic University. It is shared here with permission.

JSF's CEO Bobby Krause, former CFO Dick Krause, and PBA's President Dr. Debra Schwinn post for a photo while holding a check.Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) has received a generous $50,000 grant from the Johnson Scholars Foundation (JSF). The one-time grant is in celebration of Richard A. Krause, who retired as the Foundation’s chief financial officer. Krause, who is also a trustee at PBA, selected the gift to be made in his honor to benefit the university’s Bebe Warren Scholars Program, which supports students pursuing a degree in elementary education. 

 “I am happy to make this donation to PBA’s Bebe Warren Scholars Program as I step into retirement. Don Warren got me started with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation by inviting me to have lunch with him and Theodore R. Johnson, Sr. in 1990,” said Richard Krause, Johnson Scholars Foundation director emeritus and former CFO. “The university has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to educating the next generation of leaders–something that JSF also deeply supports.”

 The announcement was made at The Breakers Palm Beach during a reception hosted by the Foundation on Friday, December 1, 2023, to honor Krause.

 “We are so grateful to the Johnson Scholarship Foundation for this generous gift,” said PBA President Dr. Debra Schwinn, who attended the reception. “Dick Krause exudes integrity and his commitment to education and service is inspiring. Many of our students are deeply in need—some work two or three jobs, and many of them are first-generation students. This support will help us equip more aspiring teachers who will invest in the next generation of scholars.”

 Palm Beach Atlantic University and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation (JSF) share a longstanding history. Theodore R. Johnson and his wife, Vivian Chesley Macleod Johnson, became supporters of PBA after Founding Chairman Dr. Donald E. Warren introduced them to the university in 1982.

The JSF is PBA’s largest scholarship supporter, providing scholarships to qualified students who wish to pursue higher education but cannot otherwise afford to do so. The impact of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation is profound, with over 6,000 more than 6,000 students representing dozens of countries, states and academic programs receiving Johnson Scholarships. These students are known on PBA’s campus as “Johnson Scholars.”

“The Foundation is thrilled to distribute this gift to PBA,” said Robert A. Krause, the Foundation’s CEO and the son of Richard A. Krause. “We share the university’s values of free enterprise, leadership, perseverance and social responsibility and believe that investing in education is the best means to empower people to get better jobs, become more independent and participate more fully in our society.”

 Richard A. Krause joined the Johnson Scholarship Foundation at its inception in 1991 as a trustee and treasurer. In 2015—at age 75—he retired as a board member and treasurer. He then served as their chief financial officer, overseeing the organization’s accounting, finance, banking and investment activities through July 2023.

 Before working with the Foundation, Krause served as treasurer and chief financial officer for Rinker Materials Corporation and Gee and Jenson Engineers-Architects-Planners. In addition to his work at PBA and the Johnson Foundation, he is a director at the Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. Foundation and is actively involved with First Baptist Church in Wauchula, Florida, where he lives. He has six married children, 21 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

 The Bebe Warren Scholars Program is named after the late Bebe Warren, a retired educator and wife of the late Dr. Donald E. Warren. He established the scholarship in 2001 in partnership with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.

 To learn more about Palm Beach Atlantic University, click here.