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Scholarship Stories

Every year, Southern Adventist University gives away approximately 200 scholarships to students of all years and majors. These are just a few of their stories of encouragement, gratitude, and plans for their futures.


Suitemates have turned into best friends and professors have become strong mentors for Alexsandra (pictured on the right), a current nursing major. “I always knew that I wanted to come to Southern in the back of my mind.”

Scholarships and gifts have carried her all through high school and college. Her mother, Doreen (featured in QuickNotes, Sept. ‘09 and pictured on the left), is also attending Southern as a nursing major and single mom. Doreen uses her extra loans for her children’s education. Alexsandra has already reciprocated the same spirit of giving as she has directed a portion of her school loans towards her younger brother’s academy tuition expenses.

She plans to travel to Israel this summer with Southern’s Archeology program. “It sounds like so much fun to go be in the places where Jesus walked,” said Alexsandra. In her future, she hopes to have the opportunity to travel to and apply her skills in places such as Egypt and to someday become a stay-at-home mom.








As a student missionary in Tchad, Africa, Stefan Heisler became very involved.

He decided to serve as an accountant for the

Bere Adventist Hospital missionary after an inspirational convocation by Jose Rojas. While there, he enjoyed a hands-on business environment and the opportunity to nurture his French through deep conversations about God with the locals.

However, he had been feeling discouraged and underappreciated in his efforts. “Sometimes the people you’re working with have no concept of what you’ve given up to go work with them,” Stefan said. “You can’t blame them for it, they’ve never had any previous knowledge of your life, but you can’t deny all the feelings of your heart and your memories.”

Then the surprise of a scholarship award notification lifted his spirits. “God shows Himself faithful to those who are faithful,” he says, “even when they feel forgotten and underappreciated.”






In a sobering phone call with his dad, Jason learned that he would be on his own with the funding of his graduate degree plans. As the worries began to hit, something else dropped out of nowhere—a scholarship. “It was like God was showing me that I was going to be taken care of.”

Through Southern’s ACA program, Jason traveled to Argentina where he studied for a year. The environment gave him the opportunity to learn relatively fluent Spanish skills, which he now uses to reach a wider range of people. Afterwards, he returned to Southern and resumed studying for his double major in theology and history. “I was looking to be equipped to go out and minister to others, but I didn’t

expect how much Southern has ministered to me.”

Jason, along with many other students, always dreamed about the concept of someone valuing him and what he could do. It wasn’t until he received scholarships that he felt like somebody did care about him and where he was going. “The feeling of being invested in empowered me to move forward.”



For Ingeborg, scholarships and private donors showed her

that she was “not just one in a million and that people did believe” in her.

A native from Norway, Ingeborg is a senior Psychology-Psychobiology major at Southern this year. After doors shut for her to attend a medical school in her country, she realized that she wanted to attend an Adventist school. This desire led her to Southern.

Originally, Ingeborg thought that she would have to pay for her education completely through loans. She knew that her opportunities after graduation would be hampered by the large debt on her shoulders. Then she was rescued by the gifts of others.

The real sacrifices that have provided Ingeborg with an education were put on spotlight just recently. “I don’t think it hit me until the economy started going down and my friends couldn’t come back. I was able to return because of the help and sacrifices of others.”





It’s been the same way for Manuela since freshman year: hard work, grants, loans, and then… scholarships.

Originally from Romania, Manuela is a senior at Southern this year. Through many miracles her family moved to America when she was nine years old. After her father’s sudden death, her mother worked grueling hours to provide for Manuela and her siblings. The hard work ethic she saw in her mother taughther also to never give up.

Through Southern, she traveled as a student missionary to Chuuk, Micronesia where she served as a teacher to 30 children. The 10 months that she spent there humbled her and allowed her to make her mark while building life-long connections. “You’re a student all these years and all of the sudden you’re a teacher.”

Manuela was uncertain whether she would be able to return to school because of limited funds, but through hard work and the kindness of others she will be able to complete her Bachelors in Public Relations at Southern.






“I always wondered if my kids and I would make it.” Between teaching at a high school and filling her role

as a single mom, Doreen never thought that college, let alone Southern, could be a possibility for her.

Then one day she sat down with finance counselor Lilly Loza and together they realized that through grants and scholarships, it could work.
However, you wouldn’t know that by looking at Doreen’s financial situation. In addition to her scholarships and grants, Doreen has taken out full loans which she uses to send her two children to Adventist schools. Her daughter, Alex, is also attending the nursing program at Southern and her son, Wesley, is attending an SDA academy in Canada.
Because of her absolute faith in Christ and the help from His other loyal servants, she has been provided an opportunity to earn her nursing degree alongside her daughter at Southern. The gifts of others not only allow her to have this chance, they also affect the lives of her children. Her scholarships allow her loans to go towards her children’s Adventist education—the gifts of few are affecting many.



“I'm happy to say that many of the laboratory procedures I'm performing are familiar to me because of my training in the Biology department at Southern. Doing research during the school year has paid off, yet there are so many new things I'm learning here that will be very useful to me in my future career of medicine. I will be familiar with the studies and methods that may potentially save the lives of some of my patients. Hands on experience is the best way to learn, and that's exactly what I'm doing,” Ruthie said.

This summer, Ruthie worked as an intern doing research at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD. She was granted an internship there after she applied for the position in Christmas 2008.

Ruthie plans on giving back because of what has been given to her. She has never imagined herself as having lots of money, even after she becomes a doctor.

“I've always felt like I’ve been a generous person. Even now while I'm in college and don't make more than what I need to get by, I give to various organizations like Feed the Nations and The Quiet Hour. My life has been so strongly impacted by people being generous to me that I can't help but give back even when I have the smallest amount of savings.”

One day, Ruthie hopes to set up an endowment of her own for future Southern students who, like her, need all the help they can get. In addition to that, being president of the premed club at Southern, she realized the great need for support by local physicians for the success of the club.

Ruthie is a Senior Biology major with a Biomedical emphasis at Southern Adventist University. Thanks to the E.O. Grundset-Bainum Scholarship, she will be graduating in May 2010, and do a year of international missionary service before returning to medical medical school. She hopes to be involved in Southern's premed club in the future perhaps by taking students on an annual medical mission trip and providing practical medical training for premed students.

“Being a student at Southern has opened my eyes to its needs. In the future, when I'm better equipped, I want to be able to help meet those needs.”



Misael is a Senior Finance/Accounting major at Southern Adventist University, who received the E.F. & Fern Willett Endowed Scholarship Fund, who will be graduating in May 2010.

When Misael received the scholarship, he said he could not believe his eyes. “I had been talking with my mom, and we were worried for my education for the following school year. Since my parents don’t have a job that provides that much income, they have not been able to help me pay for school, and I had nobody to co-sign for me to get a loan. We had been praying for some time for God to offer a solution for us, because we did not know what to do. Receiving this scholarship was an answer to prayer!”

“Southern chose me,” said Misael. “I did not plan on going to Southern. I had been talking with my mentor and we were preparing for me to go to a different school.”

One day, Misael received not one, but two applications for Southern. He thought that was interesting, but did not think much of it. One weekend, an enrollment counselor at Southern went to Misael’s hometown, and while there, she talked to him about Southern, and how he should consider going. Several friends also encouraged him to go, and he made the decision.

“I feel like coming to Southern was the best choice I’ve ever made. Not only have I had the opportunity to be educated in such a great institution, but I have had the blessing of being able to give my life to the Lord,” said Misael. “Chaplain Kibble helped me study the Bible, and I got re-baptized. I feel that if I hadn’t gone to Southern, I would not have decided to resubmit myself to God.”

Misael’s plans for the future include getting his masters, and hopefully his doctorate. He would like to work for an Adventist institution, or work for the health system.


Donella is a nursing major who will be graduating with her AS this May. She received the K.W. Grader Nursing Endowed Scholarship for Florida Resident Nursing Students.

“I honestly couldn’t believe it,” Donella said about receiving her scholarship. “I thought, ‘Why me?’ but I was so excited. It was such a good surprise. Donella found out about her scholarship last year, and said that it definitely made a difference on her outlook of how she would go about paying for college this year.

“I’ve had such a great experience here at Southern. I’ve made wonderful friends, had great teachers, and amazing experiences. The teachers work with you, and try to understand and help you. I love the Christian atmosphere that I wouldn’t be able to experience in other places.”

“It is so good to know that we have people that care about the advancement of students’ educations," Donella said. "This scholarship is not only helping to further my dream but telling me that there are people who believe in me and want me to succeed.”

Donella has had many mentors from her time here. Dr. Tony Trimm, her A&P I professor who helped her see A&P in a different light, Shawn Johnson, her financial advisor, and Jacklyn Hughes, her nursing advisor who always encouraged her with classes.

Donella has been involved with the BCU choir and Asian club, and has also helped with community service.

"I really appreciate people who want to help the community, to help the students," Donella said. "It's devastating when somebody wants to attend school here and can't. When you have people who are willing to help further education, it's such a blessing. God is really leading them."


Michael and Dyana

Without the help of scholarships and endowments here at Southern, I might not have been able to stay here and enjoy the things I did. One of my favorite memories here at Southern was meeting my fiancee Dyana. Dyana and I didn't just meet once and fall in love--it was random moments when I kept meeting her, and a relationship grew from there. Her sister was in my spanish class, I was friends with her cousin, we had a mutual friend, and I even worked for her mother, Dr. Renee Drumm, in the social work department. It was through all of these random connections when we realized that we were becoming very good friends.

For our first date, we went to the Kreme House (which sadly, doesn't exist anymore) because I wanted to see if she liked homestyle cooking--which she did. After two years of dating, while we were in my hometown of Roanoke, I asked Dyana to be my wife. We went up to a mountain where my parents had helped me set up a candles and rose petals on an outlook over the city where I then proposed to her.

While attending Southern, not only did I meet my beauitful fiancee, but I had amazing teachers who helped me through everything. All of my social work, pre-med, chemistry, and biology professors were mentors and inspirations to me. They are part of the reason that I want to now give back to what has so greatly been given to me.

Michael and Matthew

Up until two weeks before fall semester 2005, Matthew and Michael Hermann were set on attending Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA. After all, it is one of the top 20 universities in the nation, and they had been chosen among 35 out of 5,000 to receive scholarships in excess of $30,000 per year each—enough to cover most of the cost of their four years of undergraduate study at the prominent institution. They were also offered nearly full-tuition scholarships at Roanoke College.

But these twin brothers have turned away from those scholarships totaling over $200,000. Instead, they came to SmartStart to give Southern a try, and chose to stay in pursuit of their dreams in medicine, law, business, and politics. They felt impressed that this was the right time to be in an Adventist school where their faith would be nurtured, rather than tested, while they are preparing for their lives of service.

“It’s hard for our high school friends to understand how we could exchange financial security and prestige for the financial uncertainty and big debt we now face,” says Matthew. “They are confused by our decision, but we feel their respect for choosing based on our beliefs,” Michael says. “I want to be recognized for how hard I worked, not where I went to college. We are trying to trust God for our finances to be taken care of.

”To help cover their tuition expenses, both have had on-campus jobs first semester—Matthew as a reader and Michael making phonathon calls in the Southern Connections Call Center. He enjoyed speaking to Southern Alumni about their experience here as well as about their careers. He often expressed his appreciation to those who are giving to improve scholarship opportunities at Southern.




Aldo is a senior Biology/Pre-med major here at Southern Adventist University who received the Duge Family Scholarship Fund for the 2008-09 school year.

“Coming from another country and having the opportunity to witness first hand the need of others, I have felt a call to use my talents in service for others,” Aldo said in his thank-you letter. “This scholarship helps me come closer to achieving this goal.”

Although Aldo is a senior when it comes to counting credit hours, he plans on graduating in May 2011 because next year, he is planning to be a student missionary on one of the pacific islands.

When speaking about his experience at Southern, he had one word in mind.

“Amazing,” he said. “I’ve had fun in all my classes, and I was able to go to Indonesia during the summer of 2008 to take tropical biology.”

He has enjoyed his time learning, and getting to know the teachers.

“All of my teachers in the biology department have challenged me, and are always there to talk even if it’s not about school.”

When he found out that he was the recipient of the scholarship, he was very excited.

“I felt honored,” he said.

Aldo is the treasurer of the pre-med club, and he is also a Teachers Assistant.

“Being involved is one of my favorite parts,” he said.

By receiving this scholarship, Aldo has felt encouraged to keep on pursuing his goals.

To potential givers, Aldo encourages, “Whatever help they give, it helps students reach their goals. It continues the chain of giving.”