Anne Marie Crane always planned to go to college, but she knew that it would be difficult to afford. She says, “My mom heavily instilled in me the importance of education, and I knew that if I wanted to get a leg up, I needed to go to college.” As a student at McCluer High School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she spent her senior year applying for as many scholarships as she could. She says, “I scraped up all of the pennies, all of the $100 and $500 scholarships.” Her high school principal suggested the Ava’s Grace Scholarship for children with incarcerated parents to Anne Marie, whose father was arrested when she was 10. She was awarded the scholarship, and, in addition to state and federal aid and additional scholarships, was able to initially avoid taking any student loans.
Anne Marie chose Truman State University for their academic reputation and the scholarships they offered her. She also felt that the school was both close enough to return home for visits and far enough away that it would be a change. It turned out to be a huge change, and the Ferguson native describes experiencing culture shock when moving from St. Louis to rural Kirksville, Missouri. She found that the community was predominantly white, and the university was more used to students who came from more affluent backgrounds. She says of the advisors at Truman, “They seemed as though they didn’t really know how to interact with or help a low-income student.”
In 2018, the Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program became a part of The Scholarship Foundation, and Anne Marie was glad to be assigned a student advisor to assist her. She also became involved with the Foundation’s advocacy program, serving as a Policy Fellow for the last two years.
Anne Marie had been politically active since her senior year of high school, which coincided with the 2016 presidential election. At college, she continued that trend as she learned more about policy creation. She recalls her junior year of college as the time when she learned how to advocate for herself. When the pandemic closed campuses in early 2020, she remembers that her professors did not understand the challenges faced by low-income students, such as being unable to afford off-campus internet access. Her experiences led her to pen an essay with three other Policy Fellows describing the failures of colleges to support students during COVID. The essay and resulting interview were featured in The St. Louis American.
As a senior, with all of her scholarships expiring after eight semesters, Anne Marie needed additional funding to enroll in a summer policy internship in Washington, D.C. and complete her ninth and final semester of college in the fall of 2021. She visited a Truman professor to ask for help but says that they had nothing to offer her. She reached out again to The Scholarship Foundation and applied for an interest-free loan. She was awarded the loan, allowing her to participate in the summer internship – which she calls a “priceless experience” – and earn a bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and French in December 2021. She appreciates the support that the Foundation gave her, saying “Without The Scholarship Foundation, I’m not saying that my education wouldn’t have been possible, but it would have been a multitude of degrees harder.”
The next step for Anne Marie includes a master’s degree in education policy and leadership at American University. She chose their online program because she is passionate about remaining in St. Louis and working with community-based organizations here. She is hoping to complete her master’s capstone in 2023 by partnering with a local organization, and she eventually seeks to influence and write public policy which improves the lives of people locally.