For Dawn Henn ’13, school was always an escape. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Dawn attended a public school where it seemed like more students skipped class than attended. The family lived below the poverty line on an income supplied by the government, and when Dawn’s mother couldn’t pay the electric bill, Dawn and her brother would do homework by candlelight.
Dawn excelled in school, and was proud to be accepted to UW-Madison. But getting accepted was only half the battle: Dawn was approved for the maximum amount of financial aid, but needed to take out private loans to cover costs. Without any credit established and her mother unable to co-sign, Dawn feared that her financial burden would be insurmountable…until she found out that she was the recipient of several scholarships.
At UW-Madison, knowing that someone believed in her and was willing to invest in her education gave Dawn the confidence and drive to succeed. She made the Dean’s List every semester and was an active member of education-oriented UW-Madison community service organizations both local and international, including PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence), a pre-college pipeline that helps students of color and low-income students build study skills and explore academic and career interests.
Regardless of upbringing, economic status, or familial circumstances, scholarships are a huge help to all students. Scholarships lessen the financial burden on students and their families so that they can take full advantage of educational opportunities, and help the entire campus population by ensuring a diverse student body. As Dawn says, “[scholarships] allow us to ultimately make our communities, our university, and ourselves better. In some cases, they can even change the whole course of a life.”