Class of 2018
“Nothing will get better by staying bitter.”
Aly Gatwood has become an expert at finding silver linings, though there are likely times when a little less struggle would have been alright. From her original application to The Scholarship Foundation in 2013, she has credited her mother with teaching by example that “nothing gets better by staying bitter”. Aly was born when her mother was quite young, and early on she saw her own potential as the result of her mother’s sacrifice, “Many teens want to go to college to get away from their families and ‘live on their own’. I want to go to college FOR my family. Neither of my parents got the luxury of finishing their higher education.”
Aly graduated Lindbergh High School in 2013 with a 3.8 cumulative GPA. In the year that followed, she attended Southeast Missouri State before transferring to Missouri State in Springfield, where she is now a senior. In high school, Aly was a confirmation leader at her church and volunteered with several community nonprofits, from cleaning trails to supporting foster care. These were not just resume-builders for her but affirmations that “with the constant reminder of who I wanted to be, I grew up wanting to help others before helping myself.”
In December, 2015, Aly was home on winter break and awakened to what she thought was a gunshot. Instead, it was the sound of the door being forced open by rushing flood waters from the Meramec River. At the time, Aly was days away from starting a semester-long internship in the office of the Majority Floor Leader for the Missouri House of Representatives, yet her family’s home was devastated. With community support and her mother’s blessings, Aly reported to the Capitol with a few items of clothing and a determination to succeed.
Set to graduate in December, 2017, Aly accepted a coveted full-time position as Legislative Assistant for two members of the Missouri House and was set to begin in January, 2018. Months before her planned graduation, she learned that her academic advisors had miscalculated and she would be required to take three more upper-division classes before she could graduate. Aly is grateful that the head of the department secured approval for her to take three online classes while working full-time, and in the process she has gained a professional mentor. She writes, “It’s going to be very difficult to maintain my optimism while working full-time and taking full-time online classes, but I know it’ll be worth it. Plus, it gives me an extra semester to try to raise my GPA to 3.5 so I can graduate Cum Laude.”
Aly’s career goals are born of the desire to make things better. Though she was frustrated by a required class in Public Administration in which she says, “No matter how long I studied, I still only got Bs on the tests”, Aly began doing her own research on the field and received the highest grade awarded on a class project. Not only did she find a topic she loved, but she then set her sights on a Master’s in Public Administration, explaining, “I may want to become a City Manager so I can make it so that municipalities have plans for floods and other natural disasters. I still want to become a lobbyist for domestic violence awareness and eventually start my own nonprofit.”
Aly has participated in the interest-free loan program for five years, borrowing $22,600. She’s informed the Foundation’s student advocacy efforts and worked closely with advisors to plan her finances. Aly will attend an intensive week-long, 3-credit program in public administration in the city of Chicago this summer, thanks in part to a micro-grant from the Foundation to assist with her expenses. Without bitterness, she is already making things better.