Creating Futures - Student and Donor Scholarship Stories

By Jane Fenton - Major Gifts Officer

Joseph James O'Donnell - Retirees Scholarship

JJ O'Donnell appreciates the power of a scholarship to provide that final boost to get you closer to your dream. Having struggled with mental health and housing for many years, he understands how employment completes the final component of stability.

"My employment history has spanned from casino cashier, convenience store clerk, a 'swimming with dolphins' photographer, custodian and TSA security officer. I was also married, divorced and underwent a couple surgeries before I settled down as far as living arrangements go."

He goes on to describe how depression held him "captive in his own head" for many years. About three years ago he saw the story of Malala Yousafzai, the young woman who spoke out against the Taliban in Pakistan for denying girls an education, and was shot for it. "This story made me ask myself 'what had I done with my life?' What cause would I risk my life for? I decided I wanted to help people understand other cultures in order to bring peace to our country and around the world."

He got some help at the VA through the vocational rehab program, and during the process came up with the goal of becoming a social studies teacher with a stint in the Peace Corps. He enrolled at Normandale, has a 3.6 GPA, participates in the Pillars of Leadership program, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, America Reads and Counts tutoring program for children, and enjoys the Philosophy club and Cultural Exploration & Travel clubs.

His scholarship enabled JJ to free up resources for car repair and other neglected obligations, which greatly reduced stress and allowed for time to study to complete his degree as he gets ready to transfer to Metro State this spring. "People take that little stuff for granted, but it means the world to people like me. Thank you to all the donors for this gift."

Na Lee Vue - Retirees Scholarship

Na Lee Vue felt stuck-she was caught in an endless procession of temp jobs doing data entry, and could not see any way to make progress without a degree of some kind. She had moved to Bloomington from La Crosse to get married, and found herself in the neighborhood of Normandale, so she decided to give it a try.

Two years later, she is set to graduate in May, is taking 17 credits for Fall and will have earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Healthcare Systems Technology. She is on the Dean's List with a 4.0 GPA. Enrolled in the Leadership Through Service program, Na Lee is volunteering over 200 hours at the local Health Partners clinic.

"As a first-generation college student, there are obstacles you do not know to anticipate. A scholarship frees up your time and money, and makes you want to work harder", she says.

Lissette Miguel - Education Scholarship

Lissette spoke at this year's Scholarship and Donor Recognition Event on Oct. 5th, as a recipient of the Mae and Sylvester Weiss Education Award, and her theme was the impact of education. She described how her parents would always encourage all their children to take education seriously because of the endless possibilities it provided.

At first, she was agreeable, but then she started noticing how their lives were affected by having no education, and it started to make sense. Lissette enjoyed going to school and had positive relationships with her teachers, whose love of teaching made her love learning. She then realized that she, too, wanted to become a teacher and help others unlock the magic of learning. She started volunteering as a teacher assistant for a classroom of second graders and realized that children would also benefit from having teachers from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds.

"They will start believing they can accomplish their dreams, because they see their teachers were able to." The scholarship allowed Lissette to end the cycle of taking breaks from school in order to work and save money for tuition, plus it allowed her the time to study and help care for younger siblings.

She described the best golden birthday present ever for her, last March 20th: "I checked my email and saw that I received the Weiss award, and I began to cry. Not only was I blessed to spend my birthday with the people who love me and support my dreams, but I got a gift from a donor who also believed in my dream to become a teacher. My donor's gift of giving is contagious. I will pass the message on when I am able to give back to my own students with the education I received."

Delta Dental Advanced Practice Scholarship Program

In keeping with our role as being an innovator in promoting best practices in the evolution of public health, Metropolitan State University and Normandale Community College are offering innovative advanced degree programs for dental hygienists:

  • While completing our associate degree program, students can now simultaneously enroll in Metropolitan State's Dental Hygiene baccalaureate degree.
  • The master's degree program provides the theoretical and applied skills needed for eligibility to be licensed as a dental therapist and credentialed as an advanced dental therapist in the State of Minnesota.

Advanced Dental Therapists are a new, emerging role in the field of healthcare. Their role is comparable to being a Physician Assistant or a Nurse Practitioner. They perform the traditional duties of a hygienist, but are also trained to perform routine restorative treatments for teeth, including extractions and fillings. This role is seen as crucial to helping fill health care gaps, especially in underserved communities.

This year, for the first time, the Delta Dental Foundation donated $75,000 to this joint partnership to three students as they embark on this new frontier in dental hygiene, public health and successful higher education partnership. Yuliya Kartaev, Haley Reed and Danielle Rodgers represent this first cohort.

We were proud to welcome Sharon Oswald, project manager for DDF, at this year's Scholarship and Donor Recognition Event. "Delta Dental Foundation is delighted to create this partnership with Normandale as we fulfill our mission to provide quality dental care access across Minnesota."