Amber Haga has one true passion in life: helping children with special needs. A native of Orange County, Calif., she is a first-generation college student and a Presidential Scholar, which provides the financial support she needs to achieve her dream of being a pediatric speech pathologist.
From a young age, Haga (HHS’17) knew she wanted to work with children. “In 8th grade, I had an opportunity to work with Special Sitters,” she says. Special Sitters is an organization that provides teens with special training and then connects them with families that have children with special needs.
It was during her Special Sitters training that Haga became interested in a career in speech pathology. “I was drawn to how the pathologists and occupational therapists help and interact with children every day,” she says. “It was so interesting and watching the kids interact with them was very rewarding. They are really helping people.”
When it came time to choose a college Haga already knew she wanted to study out of state. Coming from a struggling single-parent family, she quickly turned her attention to how she was going to pay for it. “I knew I would have to rely on scholarships and most likely student loans,” she says. “That meant I had to study really hard and get good grades in high school. I was going to do whatever needed to be done to put myself through college.”
Haga and her mother began the application process and put together a list of colleges accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Her top three picks all were in the Midwest. So was Purdue.
“We were traveling to Indianapolis for a college visit and my mom suggested we stop at Purdue since it was on the way,” says Haga. “I was in awe of the beauty of the campus and my decision was made. I fell in love and applied the very next day.”
Haga is making her mom proud. Working hard and staying busy, she is involved with the National Student Speech Hearing and Language Association and is part of the Purdue Honors College.
She is also a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Members work to build strong girls by donating to organizations like Girls on the run, which helps teach girls important life lessons like how to deal with bullying, and helping self-esteem by training them for a 5K run.
“This scholarship helped me achieve my dreams to the highest potential,” says Haga. “My mom wasn’t able to go to college, so coming here is a dream come true for both of us.”
A first-year student in Speech Language and Hearing Sciences, Haga is excited about her future and the opportunities granted because of scholarship donors. She says: “Because of this financial support, I can focus on what is really important – my education. I am so deeply grateful.”