RELEASE: Manchester UConn Student Featured In Statewide Scholarship Campaign
WNPR spots part of effort to double amount raised over next five years
Storrs, Conn. – Without scholarships, Manchester’s Justis Lopez wouldn’t be on the verge of realizing his dream to be a public school teacher. Lopez is about to gain statewide recognition as part of the UConn Foundation’s efforts to raise $150 million over the next five years for scholarships and fellowships.
Lopez, 22, is a graduate student in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. He will graduate this May with a master’s degree in education. He is featured in a series of National Public Radio spots that begin running April 20 and continue to Memorial Day Weekend.
“My family is not wealthy and I knew early on that I would need to work hard and earn scholarships if I was to become the first person in my family to graduate from college, let alone graduate school,” said Lopez, who finds time for a little fun at community and athletic events by performing as Jonathan the Husky.
“Justis is a wonderful example of a student whose life has been transformed because of a scholarship,” said Josh Newton, President of the UConn Foundation. “We’re confident that when people hear Justis and his inspiring story, they will join the effort.”
Over the past five years, the UConn Foundation has raised an average of $15.6 million annually for student support and scholarships. In total the University offers aid to more than 10,000 students each year. The new initiative calls for the Foundation to increase the amount raised for scholarships, fellowships and assistantships to $30 million annually.
“The Foundation’s initiative will not only help UConn attract students, but it will also combat student debt levels after graduation,” said Newton. “Right now 83 percent of UConn undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Scholarships truly are transforming lives.”
The average student loan debt at UConn for 2013 graduates was $24,600—nearly 20 percent lower than the national average ($30,000) for students at private and public institutions.
“One of the happiest days of my life was learning that not only had I been accepted to the Neag School but that I had secured the financial support from UConn to actually attend. Generous donors to the Foundation gave me an opportunity but I understood that what I did with it, was up to me,” said Lopez. “My goal is to become a social studies teacher with aspirations of becoming a principal and superintendent working on educational policy.”
Since Manchester’s Lopez arrived on campus four years ago, he has supervised more than 150 first-generation students from low-income backgrounds, served as a peer mentor advisor, experienced an “alternative” spring break helping the disadvantaged in Atlanta, studied World War II and the Holocaust in Germany, worked as a graduate assistant in Neag’s Dean’s Office as part of an initiative to improve diversity in teaching, and taught English and special education to public school students.
“All this would not have been possible without my scholarships,” said Lopez.
Lopez said the importance of scholarship giving is only increasing. “I’m just one of 10,000 students at UConn who receive some type of financial aid. We all know that the need for aid is going to increase as UConn expands enrollment while keeping its commitment to admitting top-notch students, regardless of their financial background.”