Posted by: mesabimisadventures | September 11, 2009

A Little Money In, A Lotta’ Money Out

Education is the great equalizer. 

Attending UMD and experiencing academia in all of its glorious MPR-listening, dark beer-drinking, brie cheese-eating ways opened my eyes to a world that I never knew existed having grown up in a town of 480.  I didn’t grow up in a world of fine art, theatre, outdoor recreation that didn’t involve machines or killing things, but that is the world I discovered through college and I guarantee I am a more well-rounded, open-minded citizen because of those experiences. 

I owe it predominantly to Mr. James Swenson, the same Mr. Swenson that UMD’s Swenson College of Science and Engineering is named after now.  In 1996, I entered college and became a member of the 2nd group of Swenson Scholars.  We were a handful of students that were 1) majoring in either Chemistry or Biochemistry, 2) nominated by a high school science teacher based on merit and potential and 3) from a lower income bracket.  Mr. Swenson had created a scholarship fund that provided for full-tuition for the group of us all the way through our bachelor degrees.  The reason for his generosity?  When he was a low-income student at UMD in the wayback days, a gentleman (I believe his boss? memory fails me) gave him the money to finish a year of college.  Mr. Swenson went on in his life to become a multi-millionaire and now gives to others what was once generously given to him – hope for a future brighter than the past.

I also owe my education to you, the taxpayer.  Many of us were able to combine that scholarship with Federal Pell Grants that covered our basic living expenses so that we could make it through college without any loans.  We could invest our time conducting scientific research or participating in clubs/activities so that we were more than simply students.  We weren’t those kids who were able to rely on our parents to send us to college; we weren’t “fortunate sons.”  We were, however, worth the investment from Mr. Swenson and from those of you who pay taxes (and those legislators that wisely choose to invest in the future through education).

That entering class of 1996 will have been out of college for 10 years this upcoming Spring.  It amazes me to consider the group of us.  I laugh when I think of how nervous and giddy we were every year at the Swenson luncheon that was held at the Gitchi Gammi Club in Duluth.  Many of us were from small towns.  Many of us were first-generation college students.  Now, we’re professionals.    Former Swenson Scholars are M.D.’s, fellows at the National Institutes of Health, research and development scientists for pharmaceutical companies, attorneys, Ph.D.’s., and so on and so on.   We are contributing members of society.  Instead of shelling out our incomes towards student loans (or potentially not having any significant income in the first place because we never received a higher education), we are buying homes, paying property taxes, supporting our local schools, paying income taxes, paying sales taxes, supporting our local businesses.  We are giving back. 

Higher education and a well-educated workforce benefits our entire society.  The ability of one generation to rise higher than the previous generation is what America is supposed to stand for, it’s why my ancestors left Poland, England, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Ireland to come here.  They saw hope. 

Invest in the future, invest in opportunities.

Invest in hope.

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Responses

  1. Woot Woot from a fellow Pell Grant recipient. It’s funny how you don’t think about taxpayers supporting everyone as a good thing ’til you benefit from it. A level playing field is what this country was built on, and that’s what makes it great. Sadly I still begrudgingly give my tax dollars, while trying to figure out how to give fewer of them, even though I basically got my degree on uncle sam’s dime. It’s never black and white huh, JK


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