The life-changing ways of scholarships


by Jess Nickels ('21)

Sharon Sanchez, a junior Business Management major with a minor in Computer Information Systems and a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, worked to secure scholarships and the future of her education.

SUMMARY: The ability to award scholarships ensures that we can fill our halls with bright students who may not have the financial means to attend JMU otherwise.

Although strides have been made to make higher education accessible to all, the financial commitment required is astronomical for the average young adult; and we know there are bright, driven students who may be dismissing the idea of higher education solely due to insufficient funds. 

Receiving a scholarship can be a make-or-break moment for many aspiring college students, and without financial support, universities and colleges cannot offer these life-changing awards. One College of Business student, Sharon Sanchez, a Business Management major in her third year, credited scholarships for her ability to come to JMU. 

Sanchez explained that, as a first-generation college student, her parents weren’t able to save enough for her future education and whatever goals she wished to pursue would be her own financial responsibility. 

“It was intimidating at first,” she said. But, after applying to JMU, Sanchez was accepted as an early-action applicant and offered the First Plus Opportunity Scholarship. “After being accepted into the university and receiving my scholarship, only then did it seem very possible for me to get a college education,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez had never actually visited the university until orientation day, but described her decision to attend JMU as a “gut feeling.” She explained, “I've grown up visiting the Shenandoah area, so it wasn't a big deal to just choose JMU without having seen the campus. But when I came for the first time, my mom and I were so happy. It felt like a magical day.”

Sanchez was drawn to JMU for its highly regarded business program, and in her first two years she became increasingly more involved in the College of Business community by joining Women in Business and the Association for Information Systems, while also being a Centennial Scholar and a member of the College of Business Student Advisory Council (SAC).

It was through her SAC duties that Sanchez became aware of a scholarship opportunity for students with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “I was working an event for SAC and I remember asking Associate Dean Molly Brown if she needed help with her presentation,” she said. In the ensuing small talk, Brown suggested that Sanchez look further into the scholarship since her academic performance and chosen path aligned with the requirements. Sanchez recalls thinking to herself “this has the possibility to change my life.” 

Three days later, while enjoying her breakfast, Sanchez received an email stating that she was the recipient of the Betty Coe ('64) & Paul J. Cinquegrana Scholarship Endowment for Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Leadership in the College of Business. “I was in shock,” she said. 

“It was such a rewarding feeling and reinforced that everything I'm doing is leading me down the right path. It made me feel a lot more secure because every semester, every year, there’s always the worry about financial aid and if I still qualify,” said Sanchez. 

Not only did Sanchez’s scholarships allow her to receive an education, they enabled her to have the experience of living on campus during her first year and to be involved with peers and faculty while gaining valuable skills she’ll be able to carry with her throughout her career.

Looking toward her future, Sanchez wants to start and manage her own fashion company. “I know I can't go straight into fashion, but I would like to learn more about the business-to-business aspect of the industry,” she explained. Her dream, she said, is to start a fashion line that embraces diversity and recognizes people of all cultures and ages. 

Sanchez says she is hopeful for her future as she reflects on the accomplishments that have gotten her to where she is today. “I remind myself to keep doing what I love because I know it'll eventually all fall into place,” she said. Just as her scholarships fell into place, allowing her to attend JMU and giving a bright student the opportunity to chase her dreams.

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Published: Monday, February 19, 2024

Last Updated: Monday, February 19, 2024

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