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Starting College in a Pandemic: How LEF Helped Me Get Started

In a year that has already drastically changed so many deeply anticipated moments, the high school Class of 2020 also faced the challenge of starting college in a pandemic. For recent Lewisville ISD graduates navigating those uncharted waters, the financial stress of paying for college in a rocky economy is alleviated thanks to their LEF scholarships.

“With this COVID19 pandemic, my family had a change in jobs and I had to work less because of college coursework, and so we couldn’t make as much money to pay for my tuition for the whole year,” says Oluwasemilore (Semi) Ojerinde, current University of Texas at Austin freshmen and Lewisville High School graduate. “The LEF Scholarship was a huge source of blessing because while my family was recovering from the changes I didn’t have to worry about trying to make ends meet because the LEF Scholarship was there as a blessing to use for my tuition.”

Flower Mound HS Graduation via LISD Facebook

Ojerinde is the 2020 recipient of the Dr. King Service Scholarship in Honor of Vernell Gregg ($500) and the Carl and Patsy Buck Honorary Scholarship ($3,000). She and 314 other Spring scholarship recipients had no way of preparing for what starting college in a pandemic would look like.

“The expenses that come up starting school are unreal. It was just a lot of unexpected expenses that my scholarship money helped me with,” says Jayda Coleman, current freshmen at the University of Oklahoma and recent graduate of The Colony High School.  “As a freshman starting college, it’s already so stressful. The last thing you want to worry about is money.”

Coleman refers to additional expenses beyond tuition that includes textbooks, parking permits, computer software, school cafeterias and meal plans. As the 2020 recipient of the Neal E. Wilson Memorial Scholarship ($500) and The Colony High School Cross Country & Track Boosters Scholarship ($500), these are expenses that the Lewisville ISD Education Foundation can help her cover.

In addition to alleviating the pressure of these expenses, LEF scholarships are also meant to aid struggling students and families, making it so that every dollar put towards tuition truly makes a significant difference.

“The LEF scholarship has helped me go to college as a first-generation, low-income immigrant student by letting me afford to pay for tuition and other expenses,” says Youngone Lee, Trinity University freshmen and recent Hebron High School grad. She is the 2020 recipient of the Trevor Nelson Heerwagen Scholarship ($500) and an LISD Employee Giving Campaign Scholarship ($500).

“Because I am currently a remote student, it’s been a little different. My goal in college is just to make the best out of my situation,” says Lee. “Clearly, this isn’t what I had in mind going into college, but I need to power through and appreciate what I have around me. My college experience has been limited greatly by the pandemic but I am still very grateful to attend college with the LEF scholarships I’ve received.”

Higher education is only one amongst many industries that no longer looks the same as it did just one year ago. Randy Canivel, Director of the Flower Mound Campus of Midwestern State University and LEF Board Member is one of many education advocates who have personally witnessed the effects the pandemic has had on learning – both positive and negative.

“Since our programs at MSU Flower Mound are mostly online, we have experienced a 30% increase in enrollment from last spring. However, the financial impact of this pandemic will be felt for years to come,” says Canivel. “As an institution that serves adult learners, any scholarship help is welcomed. Adult learners have to juggle, not only paying for classes, but paying for life’s expenses such as a mortgage, utilities, and groceries. It is unfortunate students must choose between pursuing their dreams and buying food.”

Jayda Coleman moving into her dorm at the University of Oklahoma.

In what can be universally agreed to as a difficult situation, LEF scholarship recipients are still seeking to make the best out of the opportunity given to them, a characteristic instilled in them from their LISD education.

Ojerinde has joined a social media team to work on new and groundbreaking projects. Coleman was named Gatorade Texas Softball Player of the Year, is pursuing dentistry while at school and has found joy in swapping stories and culture with her Spanish roommate. Lee is majoring in Computer Science and expresses great gratitude to her UIL Social Studies teacher from Hebron High School, Mrs. Boaus for supporting her education throughout the years. The future remains bright for these LISD students, even amongst the unprecedented experience of starting university in a pandemic.

“I think that going to school in LISD prepared me so well for college. LISD shaped me into an open minded student, ready to learn new things. LISD gave me the foundation of all the education I needed and the courage to go out and add to that basis of knowledge. I have all those teachers in elementary, middle school and high school that cared and nurtured me all these years and I’m ready to jump out into the world and really learn what it’s all about. I feel so blessed and honored to have received the LEF scholarship that helped me achieve this wonderful experience of a lifetime!” says Coleman.

The Lewisville ISD Education Foundation scholarship application is open annually between November and January for all LISD seniors. If you know of an LISD student graduating this year or would like to volunteer to be a scholarship essay reader, visit lisdef.com for more information.