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Students in field

Giving Tuesday: Staff reflect on how scholarships help students succeed

November 25, 2020

Perhaps no one sees how important scholarships are for students more than university staff members. For Giving Tuesday, several Finlandia University staff members shared some of their favorite experiences and success stories regarding student scholarships.

Gina Geliche (’19, Fiber & Fashion Design) – Enrollment Officer
Gina Geliche

Geliche during her time as a student at FinnU.

I work with various types of students, but transfer students are some of my favorites because I was a transfer student myself. The Finnish Strong Scholarship makes such a difference to these students and I’m always thrilled to be able to offer it to them.

One student, in particular, was going through a number of life changes and was very concerned about the cost of attending after everything that’s happened this year.

With the Finnish Strong Scholarship and their other financial aid, we were able to essentially bring them in to complete a four-year degree with little cost. The student sent a handwritten thank you that was greatly appreciated.

With the uncertainties of this year, it has been a relief to a number of students to be able to continue their education and know that we do what we can to ease that burden.

Grace Sokolow – Head Women’s Soccer Coach

The Women’s Soccer team at the ACAA Championship in Santa Cruz in 2019.

Education reformer John Dewey noted – ‘education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.’ Dewey understood that education goes hand in hand with opportunity. Higher education is an institution that for so long has been defined by barriers and obstacles for marginalized people. Finlandia University shatters those barriers and removes those obstacles, and replaces them with opportunities.

For many on our team – first-generation college students and students of color in particular – college and college soccer became an option because of Finlandia’s institutional dedication to providing opportunities for all people.

Simply put, at Finlandia, all means all, and opportunity for all.

Last year, our team traveled to Santa Cruz, Calif. to compete in the ACAA Conference Tournament, where played for the first championship in conference history. And while we didn’t win the game, that didn’t much matter, in in the end. We stood in awe of the great California Redwoods, then dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean. We ate In and Out Burger, drove along the Pacific Coast Highway and took selfies at the famous Santa Cruz Wharf. For some of us, it was our first dose of California sunshine. For some of us, it was our first time on an airplane. California reminded us like Finlandia does every day, that education is no much more than books and papers and facts and figures – education is life itself.

Cindy Cowell – Director of TRIO Student Support Services

The Finlandia University Service Scholarship is an important piece in TRIO SSS students’ financial aid packages. Service is a pillar that links the services and goals of TRIO SSS and the ELCA education mission of FinnU. In addition to the academic success of TRIO SSS students, the program works to develop the whole student. Service to others is a research-supported activity that, in turn, develops self. The Service Scholarship provides the conduit to bring all of the student experience pieces together to support whole student success.

In TRIO SSS we find that the addition of a $2,000 scholarship makes a positive financial impact on reducing the students’ college expenses. The service scholarship can be the extra support that students need in order to cover the costs of books and supplies with their financial aid award. 

In addition to the fact that possessing the scholarship encourages our students to come together to serve the community, the academic and social standards that must be maintained to remain eligible for the Service Scholarship motivates students to push themselves to achieve their goals. It is not unusual for service scholarship students to come into the TRIO SSS office to meet with their academic coach in order to estimate their current cumulative GPA to be sure they are on track to achieving the required 2.5 minimum service scholarship GPA. 

The program design in the TRIO SSS program uses community service to provide our students opportunities to get to know the Hancock community and its residents, and to evolve their leadership, organizational, and communication skills. For example, TRIO SSS students volunteered at the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly Easter dinner at the Houghton County Medical Care Facility. During our first year, student turn out was so robust, that in subsequent years, the TRIO SSS students took the lead as Easter dinner hosts at the HCMF. Little Brothers delivers the hot meal, but TRIO SSS students conducted set up, guest transport, meal service, dining one-on-one with guests and clean up. Lead SSS students coordinated volunteer sign-up, duty assignments and oversight during the event. This culture of service is perpetuated through the design of the service scholarship.

One of my favorite illustrations of the value of service in the community encouraged through the Service Scholarship occurred when the Hancock Beautification Committee contacted TRIO SSS to ask for student volunteers to prepare the gardens in the entire city for winter. When the call went out for student workers on a chilly Saturday morning, a full docket of workers showed up. Finlandia students understand a culture of giving and the Service Scholarship encourages continued service in our community.  With so many students to assign a garden to, for the first time in years, the Labyrinth Garden near the Portage Lake Lift Bridge was brought back to its original glory. Students got down on their hands and knees and cleared out every weed that had creeped in between the labyrinth stone pathways.

The collaboration between Finlandia University and the Service Scholarship and TRIO SSS is an effective and strong model of student development that is actually written into the Plan of Operation in the currently funded Dept. of Education TRIO SSS grant funded through August 31, 2025. It is a partnership that TRIO SSS plans to pursue in grant cycles going forward. 

Related Articles & Links

Donate to support student scholarships
Giving Tuesday 2020
Student Scholarships
Finnish Strong Transfer Scholarship
TRIO Student Support Services

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