All posts by Neil Cambre

Community Foundation Scholar Highlight: On the Road to Success

Student in the woods.
Katelynn McLaughlin, 2017 Community Foundation Scholar from Harding Charter Preparatory High School

As the oldest of three siblings, 2017 Community Foundation Scholar Katelynn McLaughlin recounts more than one obstacle on her road to obtaining a college degree. “We grew up eating microwave meals and wearing hand-me-down clothing,” Katelynn said. To improve her situation, attending college seemed like a crucial stepping stone but also meant an enormous financial strain on her family. Katelynn also remembers how her senior year of high school at Harding Charter Prep exhausted her. She filled out college application after college application and wrote one scholarship essay after another while having to maintain her position in the top 20 percent of her class.

Nonetheless, the encouragement and continuous support from her family and her track coaches taught Katelynn to trust in her relentless strive to pursue a career in sports physical therapy. “It was made clear to me that a college education was required of me – as was hard work,” she said.

Looking at Katelynn’s commitment to academic achievement, extracurricular pursuit, as well as community service, she was a natural candidate for the Community Foundation Scholars award, which is dedicated to students who may perhaps not be at the top of their class but find the time to serve their peers while balancing their school activities.

One year into her undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma, Katelynn can now reflect on how far she’s come. “I often catch my mother glancing at me only to mutter something about how I’m growing up too fast,” she said. Katelynn decided to attend OU because of its high academic rigor and its potential to push her even further. She is pursuing a degree in health and exercise sciences to enhance her ability to mentor young runners and athletes, like herself.

According to Katelynn, the Community Foundation Scholars award not only directly contributed to her college education, but also illustrated that her effort didn’t go unnoticed. “It was all worth it to know my hard work paid off and that there are people out there that believe my education is worth funding,” Katelynn said. “Thank you for believing in me and for making a college degree that much more possible”

Community Foundation Scholars
Through the Community Foundation Scholars program, graduating seniors from 54 central Oklahoma high schools may apply for scholarships. Recipients include students who may not be eligible for the most competitive academic scholarships, but are good students and are active in their community, as well as students who will be the first in their family to attend college. Each recipient receives a $2,000 award.

To ensure students are eligible for the awards, each school’s guidance counselor must participate in the Central Oklahoma Guidance Counselor Network, a free program that provides training opportunities on college admissions and financial aid practices. Read more at occf.org/trusteescholarshipinitiative.

Building the Future

Ana Garcia
A 2007 Bethany High School graduate, Ana Garcia attended the University of Oklahoma with the help of the Ruth Mershon Scholarship from the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. After graduating from nursing school, Ana became a family nurse practitioner serving southwest Oklahoma City.

Ana Garcia was determined to break through the barriers that stood between her and a college education. The youngest of six children born to Mexican immigrants, her family moved to the United States seeking new opportunities. Working hard just to provide for their family, higher education was a luxury they could not afford.

Little did Ana know, her great opportunity would arise from another woman who, decades earlier, had overcome challenges of her own. Born in 1924, Ruth Mershon wasn’t expected to live past the age of two. Her physical impairments made it difficult to walk or even wear shoes. Through her own tenacity and the support of her family, she persevered and graduated college in 1945. Ruth went on to practice anesthesiology for 45 years.

“Ruth’s determination helped her overcome many obstacles in life,” said niece Ginny Lawrence. “She believed strongly that hard work reaps rewards, and she wanted to help capable, hard-working students achieve their goals.”

Dr. Mershon died in 2000, and while she and Ana Garcia never met, she gave Ana and many other students an incredible opportunity. The Ruth Mershon Scholarship at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has helped nearly 100 students follow their dreams of going to college.

In a unique twist of fate, Ana also entered the medical field. Today, she is a nurse practitioner serving families in southwest Oklahoma City. “This scholarship was life changing,” Ana said. “It really validated all of my years of hard work.”

Read Ana and Ruth’s story, and learn how, together with generous donors, we are building the future through scholarship opportunities in our 2018 Scholarship Review below. To begin writing your own story of giving, visit occf.org/scholarshipgiving.