Shenandoah University hosted its first major event in the new James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center on Saturday, April 7, “An Evening Under the Stars,” a gala to raise funds for scholarships. More than 500 guests from across the region and 235 students participated in this invitation-only event, the first community event of its kind in this facility.
By the end of the evening, Senior Vice President and Vice President for Advancement Mitch Moore announced the event had raised more than $1 million in support of scholarships.
“On behalf of our students, the university’s board of trustees and senior administration, we are truly grateful for the generosity of these donors,” said President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “Our students are the central focus of Shenandoah, and we are grateful to donors who see why our students are worthy of their support.”
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam complimented the university for its work in educating the workforce of the future. ”We want to make sure Virginia is a business-friendly state,” he said. “To do that, we need to train our students for jobs of the 21st century. Shenandoah is doing a good job at that!”
University trustee James R. “Jimmy” Wilkins, Jr., co-chaired the Athletics & Events Center fundraising committee with fellow trustee James Vickers. “My father walked this property back in the late 1950s,” said Wilkins. “The Shenandoah University of today is not the same as the Shenandoah my father brought here back in 1960. Shenandoah is not just Winchester’s university, it’s the world’s university.”
Ninety-seven percent of freshman with need receive financial aid, and more than 1,800 students receive scholarships and grants totaling over $14 million annually.
Undergraduate students at Shenandoah receive academic scholarships based on their high school academic performance as well as SAT or ACT achievements. Scholarships include the Presidential Scholarship, Academic Scholarships, Shenandoah Conservatory talent-based scholarships, named scholarships from Shenandoah donors, the United Methodist Scholarship and other outside scholarships.
In addition, the Shenandoah Fund provides grant money to students with financial need. Other grants include the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG), which assists both undergraduate and graduate students, Federal Pell Grants, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.
Scholarships and grants are important because students do not have to pay them back after graduation, as they do with student loans.
At the gala event, several students thanked donors for giving to scholarships.
“From the first moment I walked onto campus, I knew this was a special place,” said Hidayah Jaka ’18, a biology major from Purcellville, Virginia. “Veterinary school costs a lot, so to have that support with scholarships during my undergraduate years has been immensely helpful to my future, to my future career and, basically, the rest of my life.”
“I had three options in my household, it was either college, military or get into a trade,” said Damon Mackin ’18, a mass communication major from Frederick, Maryland. “I saw college as the best opportunity to expand my horizons as a person. My mom has made a lot of sacrifices to help me to come here. Scholarships helped to take some of the burden off her shoulders.”
Kayla McGhee ’19, a student studying elementary education from Sperryville, Virginia, said multiple scholarships help to defray the costs of her education. “I have so many scholarships thanks to donors, benefactors and sponsors, the board of trustees and all the people who donate to help scholarships,” she said. “Thank you, from the bottom of my toes because the bottom of my heart just isn’t enough, for the money you donate to people like myself to help me to live my dream of becoming a teacher.”
Malik Henry ’18, a sport management major from Newport News, Virginia, said, “Coming from a single-parent home, I had to ask a lot of different family members to chip in [financially], but having scholarships from donors and the university definitely helped me out.”
Karen Cornejo-Guillen ’18, a political science, Spanish and global studies major from Winchester, Virginia, said, “My parents didn’t have a college education. When my family moved to the United States from El Salvador, it became a really important part of my life to pursue my studies, so I could have a better future. Scholarships were very important for me to be able to come to Shenandoah because my mom is a single mother and she had limited resources. It was great that Shenandoah was able to support me in those ways, while other universities were not able to do that or even bothered to look at options and resources.”
Brett Boboorian ’21, a piano performance major from Richmond, Virginia, said when he and his family were considering which college or university to attend, they were struggling to find the most affordable and best program. “So when the [talent] scholarship [to Shenandoah Conservatory] was offered, it was like, ‘this is definitely the best option.’”
Sarah DeLuca ’12, ’15, a physician assistant studies alumna from Clarksville, Maryland, said “having a scholarship through Shenandoah as an undergraduate student, in addition to going on to grad school, helped me to become a physician assistant. This money helped me through undergrad and graduate school, and has enabled me to save at least $44 thousand dollars.”