My name is Mallory Koestel. And I am living my dreams at Purdue.
Four years ago I was a high school senior in Scottsburg, Indiana, 30 miles north of Louisville.
I come from a strong, Christian family. I always dreamed about going away to college and I can remember my mother telling me in the fifth grade that I needed to get all A’s to do that. My parents did not have the means to send me to school. I needed scholarships.
I worked so hard to succeed. By my senior year I had a 3.9 grade point average. My SAT scores were high. I was involved in every school activity. I was at the top of my class and I had completed more than 900 hours of community service.
I met with my academic advisor and told her my dreams. I remember that meeting like it happened yesterday.
She looked at me and said – “kids like you without money don’t go away to college.” And that was it.
Fortunately, my parents believed in my dreams and they helped me look for scholarships. In January of my senior year I received a letter from Purdue waving the $50 application fee.
But there was no joy in my heart when I was accepted. I couldn’t afford it. Later that spring I received another letter stating I was a candidate for a Purdue Opportunity Award Scholarship. I held my breath.
Finally, the envelope came. I was afraid to open it. When I saw the word “congratulations” I knew that my dreams were coming true.
That’s when broke down and cried.
I couldn’t wait to get to Purdue. But when I arrived I experienced culture shock. I didn’t fit in. I was homesick. My roommate and I were not a fit. The night before classes started I had my bags packed and I told my mother I was coming home.
She called the Purdue Opportunity Awards office and at an ice cream social that evening, Jenna Seabold, program coordinator, took me aside. She introduced me to Jacqueline.
Jacqueline was a sophomore. We had the same background and Christian values. She was an Opportunity Awards mentor and she became my best friend. Earlier this month I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.
I also become an Opportunity Awards mentor. I taught a leadership class for first generation college students. I now coordinate academic plans for students who are struggling. I’m involved in many other activities and this fall I was tapped for Mortar Board whose members are selected for their superior scholarship, dedicated service to the university community, and outstanding and constant leadership.
I am studying English, political science and history. I’m a Dean’s Ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts. I’m applying for a master’s degree and then I will go to law school.
My scholarships don’t cover all my expenses. I work all year long and I will graduate in May -- debt free.I owe my entire college experience to the Purdue Opportunity Awards program. This scholarship helped me grow as a leader and a professional. It showed me it doesn’t matter where you come from -- if you work hard Purdue will acknowledge you for who you are.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you who made this possible.
If it were not for you, I would not be here today.
My name is Mallory Koestel.
And because of you I am living my dreams at Purdue.