Unlike most of his classmates, Collin DeBaise spent his freshman year at UConn working up to 20 hours a week while juggling classes and college life.
“I had to work and just immediately pay my tuition and fee bill every month. That was kind of difficult,” DeBaise recalls.
DeBaise, now a rising senior, is putting himself through college.
He says several scholarships and other financial aid he has received since his first year have made a tremendous difference in his life. His scholarships, including the ExxonMobil UConn Alumni Endowed Scholarship, allowed him to cut back on his work hours and eased the intense financial pressure he faced.
“Now I work for groceries and other stuff, and I don’t have to worry as much about whether I’m going to be able to pay my fee bill,” he says. “I can just do what I want, focus on my studies, and even play a little basketball.”
DeBaise, of Wallingford, Connecticut, says the financial support has also relieved the stress on his mother, a single mom who works as a secretary at a local hospital.
“She worries about how I will fund my schooling and tries to help when she can,” he says. “Without this funding, I would have had to take out more loans, which would have burdened me for years after I graduate.”
DeBaise still works at his job as a referee at the UConn Student Recreation Center but has been able to dramatically scale back his hours. He’s also an undergraduate teaching assistant in the School of Engineering.
DeBaise discovered a love for chemistry in high school and decided to major in chemical engineering at UConn because he likes problem-solving. While he is still deciding on a specific career path, he is interested in exploring the pharmaceutical industry or, possibly, wastewater management to tackle plastic pollution.
“That’s a big problem. The ocean is full of plastic. If there was any way I could be part of a team to reduce it, I would love to go in that someday,” he says.
He says he was so moved by the scholarship support he has received from UConn’s generous donors that he hopes to become a donor himself.
“If I’m ever in a position to donate, I would like to help students who are in a similar position as me and give back to the place that has given to me,” he says.