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University of Wyoming Foundation

Impact on Students

A Dream Realized

Cheryl MandichCheryl Mandich had a dream. She wanted to work with wildlife. "I don't care if it's wildlife populations or just habitat," she says. "Since I was a kid, I wanted to work outside."

For many years, Cheryl was a computer programmer in Michigan. She went into that field because it was a steady job with good pay. Then about 13 years ago, she and her three kids moved to Wyoming. When her youngest was the only one left at home, she decided to go to school with the help of the Myra Fox Skelton Scholars award. "If not for the scholarship," Cheryl says, "I couldn't have gone back to school."

The scholarship paid Cheryl's rent and utilities, and although she still had to work part time, her job was within her field, giving her valuable experience on which to build her career. She graduated with her undergraduate degree, and her youngest was able to stay in school in Casper. Then, because of Cheryl's prior work experience, she was able to get funding for her master's research. She now spends most of her days outside, and she expects to graduate in October.

"It was phenomenal," Cheryl says. "I would not be where I am today without it. It was just awesome. I can't put it into words."

A nontraditional student is usually defined as someone over the age of 25. However, this definition sometimes includes other students who are not traditional high school graduates-single and married parents, veterans, and the disabled, for example. Many nontraditional students are site-bound and are unable to come to the University of Wyoming's Laramie campus. Instead, they often attend UW through the University of Wyoming Casper College Center (UW/CC) or take advantage of UW degree programs delivered through the Outreach School.

"‘I have to choose between buying books for my classes or medicine for my sick kids. Can you help me&?rsquo; That dignified but desperate plea shook me," says Maggi Murdock, dean of the Outreach School, "and it is that situation, faced by many nontraditional students, that has led the UW Outreach School to seek support for single-parent students, wherever they may find themselves living and learning in Wyoming."

The Myra Fox Skelton Scholars Program is one endowment that helps Wyoming's nontraditional students like Cheryl. Another is the Wyoming Women's Foundation Edelweiss Opportunity Scholarship.

The Myra Fox Skelton Foundation, based in Casper, established its Scholars Program to assist single-parent students attending UW through the UW/CC Center. Recipients are full-time and part-time juniors, seniors, or graduate students who demonstrate academic excellence. Myra Fox Skelton, the fund's benefactor, dedicated her life to church, education, and charity, and she was elected superintendent of schools in Hot Springs County at age 23-the youngest person to ever hold that office in Wyoming.

"The Skelton Foundation committee is pleased to honor and fulfill Myra's intent to promote education in Casper," says Serena Cobb of Wells Fargo Bank, Trustee for the Myra Fox Skelton Foundation. "Cheryl Mandich is an excellent example of the type of student we want to reach-dedicated promising students who are single parents attending the University of Wyoming in Casper."

The statewide charitable organization-the Wyoming Women's Foundation-and a generous private donor established the Edelweiss Opportunity Scholarship, which was then doubled by the state matching program. This fund helps single mothers enrolled in UW through the Outreach School with living and childcare expenses. The goal of the Wyoming Women's Foundation is to support the economic self-sufficiency and access to opportunities for Wyoming women and girls.

"Education enables women to grow their earning potential and become economically self-sufficient," says Richelle Keinath, executive director of the Wyoming Women's Foundation. "The Edelweiss Opportunity Scholarship illustrates our commitment to helping women in Wyoming thrive and reach their highest potential, and this benefits all of Wyoming."

As almost 40% of UW students meet the definition of nontraditional student, and because nontraditional students often face large social and financial pressures, these scholarships address a profound need.

"While we know that we haven't solved all the problems faced by students balancing families and school, we also know that our generous donors are making a difference in the lives of UW students-and those students' children-statewide" says dean Maggi Murdock.

Photo:
Cheryl Mandich and her youngest daughter, Megan Northrup

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