PGS Students Win ATHENA Scholarship
by Ellie Walburg (B.S. ’17)
With a passion to pursue their education, Cornerstone University students Brandi Dyke (B.S. ’21) and Mercedes Frias (B.S. ’20) were named recipients of the 2018 ATHENA Scholarship.
The Grand Rapids Chamber ATHENA Eileen DeVries Scholarship is an award designed to equip women over 30 who are pursuing higher education to achieve their goals. ATHENA International is a nonprofit organization that honors and encourages women leaders in the community, according to Grand Rapids Chamber's website.
The scholarship allows recipients to use the award money for whatever helps them earn their degree—from tuition to childcare to transportation expenses.
Dyke is pursuing her bachelor's degree in psychology and anticipates graduating in 2021. Frias is working toward her bachelor's degree in business administration and leadership and plans to complete her degree in 2020.
For Dyke, this scholarship provides support for her as she follows her passion to become a Christian counseling psychologist.
"The scholarship is beneficial to me as it not only helps me financially but also aids as further encouragement to fulfill my educational endeavors," Dyke said. "Receiving this scholarship is an absolute honor as it reinforces my purpose in my education and makes me feel as if my work is meaningful."
Dyke is excited to be a part of the ATHENA program as it empowers and encourages students like her to pursue their goals. "The ATHENA Scholarship is encouraging as it is an advocate for going the extra mile," she said. "By recognizing the hard work of non-traditional, female students, these women feel empowered and are further able to be encouraged to finish their degree path, as well as give that empowerment back to their community."
Patti Ticknor, senior enrollment counselor, and Sherin Austin, academic advisor, at PGS in Kalamazoo are excited for Dyke to receive this award. "She is strong in her faith and has a desire to glorify God," they said. "She is detail-oriented, highly motivated, very passionate and gives 110%. She knows in her heart that God's plan for her is to become a clinical psychologist and earning her degree is preparing her for that calling."
The opportunities from this scholarship are similar for Frias. For her, receiving this award lessens the financial burden of achieving her goals and taking care of her family. As a full-time employee, student, wife and mother of four children, Frias' dedication and hard work is evident in all she does.
When Frias came to Grand Rapids, she worked three jobs as a single mom. She's worked hard and put her family first to provide for them.
Frias transitioned to the PGS program after earning her GED and an associate degree in office administration. Yet with her many responsibilities, she still experienced a financial imbalance. After hearing about the ATHENA scholarship opportunity from her adviser, she applied. And once again, her hard work has paid off.
"This opportunity has given me the motivation to continue to strive to achieve the education I desire," she said. "I am really grateful because this program not only helps me pursue my degree, but it also serves as a motivation."
With a passion to grow in her career, Frias plans on earning her bachelor's in business administration and leadership to be better equipped and marketable. And she's thankful to be a part of a community development program that supports and empowers women like her.
"This program helps those in need of financial support to have a chance of achieving their dreams; I am a perfect example of this," Frias said. "I strongly believe that this program powerfully supports what Nelson Mandela said, that 'education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.' Thanks to God that programs like the ATHENA Scholarship exist which are devoted to helping people change the world."
That ability to build a better future for one's career, family and goals is what the ATHENA Scholarship is all about. And as part of the community celebration at the ATHENA Awards, Dyke and Frias will be honored at the luncheon event on Sept. 19.