When Jessica Odigie first came to UIS she thought for a while about quitting: Too much change and too far from home.
But college had been a goal for Jessica since kindergarten, when she first set her heart on becoming a judge. With help from her parents, Jessica, a political science and legal studies major with a minor in criminal justice, focused on her goals and dug in.
“College has made me a better person,” Jessica says, who will graduate in May 2012 before heading to law school.
One example: turning her early problems into a benefit for others.
After settling in, Jessica realized there had to be other people who faced the same challenges—“students who come on their own, without either friends or family to encourage them.”
So Jessica joined the Necessary Steps Mentoring Program, working with first-generation students, some of whom know nothing about a syllabus, what a major is, or how quickly assignments can pile up.
“A lot of first-generation students don’t realize the bare minimum will not get them what they need from school,” Jessica says. “They don’t know how important a relationship with professors is. They don’t understand how determined they need to be. They get a bad grade, and then blow that class off, rather than working even harder to pass.”
Jessica, who helps students move past those moments, plans to continue making a difference for people. Last summer she completed an internship near her home at a firm specializing in family law. The firm set aside time each week for pro bono work. “Without that help, so many people would been completely lost,” Jessica says. “Some didn’t speak English well, some were unemployed. Whatever kind of law I go into, I’m always going to help people who can’t afford attorneys.”
Jessica has afforded college by working on campus—everything she earns helps pay for college—and taking out loans. This year she received the Lee Ensel Scholarship in Pre-Law, for which she is so grateful, and this past fall, at UIS’ annual scholarship luncheon, Jessica met Tim Ramsey. Tim is the nephew of Eileen Ensel, one of UIS’ generous scholarship donors. Jessica welcomed the opportunity to reassure him in person that his family’s investment in her educational future will pay off.
Scholarships do more than help financially. “So many people have to stop going to school because of the expense,” Jessica says. “When students see that someone is willing to help them, when they feel like maybe they can’t do it, it’s so much encouragement to have someone invest in their future, someone who doesn’t even know them.”
Would you like to become a difference for students like Jessica, encouraging them to strive for their dreams and complete their degree?
An Access Illinois Scholarship could double the impact of your scholarship gift. Please consider creating your own named scholarship now during the 1:1 match program.