Your Impact &
Your Stories

Student Story Courtney Walton

Courtney Walton wants to teach English someday, but she says before receiving the Errett and Mazie Warner English Award she wasn’t even sure she’d be able to continue pursuing that dream at EIU.

“Receiving this scholarship is truly an honor,” said Walton, a Wheaton native who also participates in ACTS Campus Ministries and the Minority Teachers Education Association. “After not receiving financial aid for the next school year, I was uncertain how I would be able to finance my tuition. Because of this scholarship, I know that I will be able to continue my education.”

In addition to teaching, Walton hopes to someday open a community center for inner-city teens to give them a safe place to spend their free time.

“I will make a positive difference in the world by being kind to everyone I meet,” said Walton. “Displaying love and compassion for others is beneficial to human development. I strive to inspire people to do better and I like to serve as a voice of encouragement to others.

“I know that this does not sound like much, but peoples' kindness and generosity means a lot to me and has positively shaped my world.”

Walton keeps a quote in mind when thinking of the impact the Warner Award has had on her: “You may just be a person to the world, but to a person you may mean the world.” For her, the donors who made her scholarship possible are the ones who mean the world.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone for their support,” said Walton. “Truly, I am so honored and appreciative of this great blessing.”

Student Story Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy wasn’t sure if law school was in the cards for her when she first came to EIU, but earning the J.K. Kelly Scholarship has been part of a growth process that has helped her cement her plans after she earns her bachelor’s degrees.

“Receiving the scholarship has allowed me to become more confident in my dream,” said Murphy, a Robinson native who’ll graduate in May 2015. “I am not in the typical pre-law major, as I am an accounting and finance major; however, I feel that I have proven myself as a pre-law undergrad to potential law school recruits by receiving this scholarship.”

Murphy intends to focus on either corporate law or tax law; at EIU she serves as treasurer of the Pre-Law Society and as vice president of scholarships and awards for the Delta Sigma Pi professional business fraternity. She’s also a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma business honors fraternity, the Kappa Delta sorority, and has been elected as a student senator.

In addition to all those extracurricular activities, she’s also traveled to study abroad in Panama.

“This experience was incredible, as I was able to study the culture and business world of a different county,” said Murphy. “Because Panama is not developed like the Unites States, it allowed me to take a new perspective on the way of life of different cultures. I enjoyed this opportunity so much that I am participating in EIU's European Union study abroad trip this summer.”

It’s safe to say Murphy has made the most of her EIU experience and recognizes how important it is for other students like her to have the same opportunities here.

“Because of your help, EIU has grown into the success that is has today,” said Murphy. “EIU is not simply a college that students go to in order to earn a degree to find a job, but rather a second home that students find comfort in while away from their families.

“Thank you for all of your support and I hope to one day give to EIU as much as the university has given to me.”

Student Story Austin Mejdrich

For Austin Mejdrich, taking part in public speaking competitions via the EIU Forensics Team has been a cornerstone of his college experience. Without your generosity, though, he says being an Eastern student -- and therefore being a part of that team -- might not have been possible.

“I rely on scholarships and student loans to fund my education at EIU,” said Mejdrich, a political science major who grew up right here in Charleston. “The Kenneth E. Coffey Jr. Scholarship will help ease this burden and for that, I am greatly appreciative.

“The Forensics Team travels around the country competing against other universities. I greatly love this activity, and the (Coffey scholarship) allows me to continue competing in an activity that is near and dear to my heart.”

Mejdrich, an Honors College student who’s also active in EIU Pride and as an alternate resident assistant, says he hopes to one day work for an organization or for the government in a capacity that positively impacts the lives of others.

“Many organizations, such as Amnesty International, are dedicated to this fight,” said Mejdrich. “And working for an organization like them would be a dream come true. I could work first-hand on fighting for others around the world so they can enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities we are so lucky to enjoy.”

If that’s what life has in store for Mejdrich, he’ll undoubtedly be proud to say it all began at Eastern Illinois University.

“EIU offers so many great opportunities for not only education but also for building real-life experiences,” said Mejdrich. “EIU also opens doors for students who come from all over the nation so they may truly reap the benefits of the great education it provides.

“Unfortunately, it is often a huge struggle for college students to afford higher education and to take part in the great opportunities at institutions like EIU. The support of alumni, friends, and other generous donors allows students like myself to enjoy fully the great education and experiences EIU offers, and I for one could not be more thankful.

“Your support is so important, and it is most definitely not forgotten. Thank you for your continued generosity.”

Student Story Morgan O'Dell

Morgan O’Dell’s intention has always been to teach, and she knew she’d get the best preparation for this career in education at EIU. What she wasn’t as sure about was how to make it work financially. By earning the Errett and Mazie Warner Elementary Education Award, though, she hasn’t had to worry.

“Receiving this scholarship has lifted a great financial burden off of my shoulders,” said O’Dell. “Coming from a single-parent household, it is hard to pay for my college education. I will not have to take out as many loans or work as much during the school year so that I can focus on my studies. The award is beyond greatly appreciated.”

O’Dell has been active in organizations like Math Energy and Education Scholars as well as the TRiO Ambassador’s Program and the Epsilon Sigma Alpha service sorority. She’s also been involved with Girls on the Run as a volunteer coach, something she described as her most memorable experience at EIU.

“Watching the girls grow and learn everyday was the most rewarding feeling I could have ever asked for,” said O’Dell. “I have also had the opportunity to volunteer as a tutor for a young boy in Charleston. Knowing that I was helping him improve means that I am helping him be successful.”

That attitude will serve O’Dell well when she fulfills her plans to teach third grade in a rural district.

“I want to teach children to love learning,” she said. “I want them to know that they can achieve much more in life if they value their education and their community.

“EIU has taught me the importance of serving my community in every way possible, and I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. I want children to have a positive and encouraging role model that they can count on. I believe that affecting the lives of young children today shapes the leaders of tomorrow’s world.”

Student Story Jaime Escatel

Jaime Escatel doesn’t have much trouble coming up with a list of ways his life has been positively affected by the Leo J. Dvorak Memorial Award.

“I no longer have to worry about my financial situation here on campus,” said Escatel, a music education major. “It is my goal to graduate with as little debt as possible. With this scholarship, I have been able to fund and further my education and I am forever grateful.

“I have been able to purchase various materials needed to further my musicianship, pay multiple fees for my teacher certification, and have been able to attend a few conferences in my field of study.”

In addition to participating in more than a half-dozen music ensembles, Escatel is a member of the Phi Alpha Eta academic honorary organization and served as the treasurer of the Kappa Kappa Psi national band honorary fraternity for the past two years. He’s involved with New Student Programs and has served as secretary of the university’s chapter of NAFME, the National Association for Music Education.

“My career plans are for me to teach for a few years before I pursue a master’s degree,” said Escatel. “I plan to get one in either of the following concentrations, wind conducting to improve myself as a musician or in music education. I also plan to attain the degree: Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Music Education, in hopes that I can be the director of a music education program on a college campus. I also plan to be part of the executive board of NAFME so I can continue advocating for the arts.”

Additionally, Escatel wants to make sure he provides future students opportunity to get the same joy out of music that he’s been able to experience.

“I want them to realize that the fine arts has a powerful and positive influence on the human species,” said Escatel. “Being involved in the fine arts, particularly music, gives many students an advantage over those that do not participate in music and I want my students to be perfect examples of that. My ultimate goal is that they do not become the parents and adults that I have associated with and say ‘Man I wish I stuck with music.’”

Another goal for Escatel is to someday help students in the same way those who help fund scholarships are helping him.

“I would like to tell those who support EIU, whether in spirit or financially, that you are doing more than just investing in us as students,” said Escatel. “You are, in fact, investing in something much bigger — our dreams.

“Your support makes getting through the process of earning our degrees easier because we know you all have our backs. Sometimes just knowing that there are people out there who support the difference we aspire to make in the world is enough to get us through yet another semester. I will forever be grateful for all those who support us and make it possible to proudly be a Panther!”


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