Lizette Mendoza, a biology major, and Sarah Tanton, an elementary education major, have been awarded the 2018 Scott Willison Memorial Scholarship.
The scholarship, now in its second year, is for students who have overcome obstacles to attend Boise State University. In addition to financial assistance, students are assigned a faculty mentor in the spirit of honoring Willison’s legacy of student encouragement and support. The scholarship was created in 2017 with generous donations from the campus community in professor Scott Willison’s memory.
Mendoza and Tanton both were chosen based on essays they submitted about challenges they’ve faced while pursuing their education. For Mendoza, life recently changed dramatically due to unforeseen family circumstances.
“At the start of 2017 my whole life changed. I had to obtain guardianship of my two younger sisters, Maria who is 17 years old, and Elizabeth who is 7 years old with Downs Syndrome,” wrote Mendoza.
Her newfound circumstances did not stop Mendoza from pursuing her education, or reflecting on the positive aspects of her situation.
“At 19 I never imagined having to be a full-time mom, as well as work full-time to support my sisters. Nevertheless, while being a full-time student, I have given my best effort. I am very grateful for this experience because it has made me grow immensely and learn so much about myself. It has shown me what I am capable of and has taught me how to care for something else — my precious sisters’ well-being.”
Tanton has faced health-related obstacles for the past 5 years. She also reflected in her essay about what she’s learned from her struggles.
“A few of the lessons I have learned are perseverance, humility, acceptance, understanding and how to look outside of myself to help others. These lessons weren’t easy to learn, but I have used them to guide my life,” wrote Tanton. “Overcoming these challenges and obstacles has helped me in obtaining my education as I have learned to persevere. Life, school and work can be stressful, but as we learn to persevere, we can see the strength we have and accomplish more in our lives.”
“The students who receive the Scott Willison scholarship embody the grit and determination that are required to achieve the impossible,” said Rich Osguthorpe, dean of the College of Education. “Dr. Willison’s lasting legacy is one of compassion, generosity, humility and kindness, and these scholarship recipients carry on this legacy with their dedicated pursuit of their educational dreams.”
Over the course of two decades at Boise State, Willison left an incredible legacy for underserved students in the Treasure Valley and on campus. He was an inspiring mentor to students, an innovative colleague and a dedicated, caring father. During his tenure, he helped bring in more than $40 million in grant funding that provided direct support to more than 30,000 students.