Checking your email can get tedious, right? But for two Augsburg students, the digital chore yielded unexpected benefits. Informed that they had been selected as recipients of this year’s Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) scholarships, they registered both shock and delight.
“I was very, very surprised. It was not something I had applied for, so I was very excited to hear I got it,” says Nayra Rios ’20. After earning an associate degree at Century College in White Bear Lake, she decided to transfer to Augsburg to major in biopsychology, the next step on her way to becoming a physician’s assistant. Unfortunately, the deadline for obtaining a transfer scholarship had passed.
“I was disappointed, but I figured I would just have to find other ways to pay for school. Then a month later, this email arrived,” Rios says. She was familiar with financial challenges. Her parents are laborers who grew up in Mexico but immigrated to California, where they met, married, and had three children. They moved to Minnesota when Rios was seven years old. She attended a charter school for Hispanic students before transferring to Tartan High school in Oakdale, a transition that carried its own culture shock. But Rios found friends and pursued academic success.
Although her older brother is now pursuing a degree in law enforcement, she was the first in her family to attend college. As a child, she had encountered health issues that scared her, but compassionate treatment relieved that fear; she has wanted to pursue a career in health care ever since.
“My parents always supported my dreams,” she says. They had their own dreams—her mother wanted to be a nurse and her father a lawyer—but lacked resources. In Mexico, she points out, families had to pay for everything related to school: books, uniforms, etc. These days, Rios helps support herself through her off-campus work with STAR Services, which supports young people with disabilities.
She has enjoyed meeting the women involved with AWE, which was formed in 2009 to unite women with shared interests and passions through events, mentorship, and philanthropy. “They are very kind, and they made me feel important,” says Rios.
Her sentiments are echoed by Sydney Fields ’22, who describes her benefactors as “really cool.” She, too, was surprised by the scholarship award, although she recalls meeting the person who recommended her through a multicultural diversity engagement group. A graduate of Champlin High School in Brooklyn Park, she chose Augsburg for its diversity, its proximity to home, and a chance to play on the basketball team. She is #10, a guard.
“I love playing at Augsburg. It’s such a welcome and supportive program,” she says. And although she got good grades in high school and was expecting to work hard at college, she was not quite prepared for the amount of schoolwork she would encounter. Studying, on top of basketball practice and her work as a housing specialist, “gets really exhausting!”
With four older and two younger siblings, all of whom have or are pursuing some sort of college degree, Fields did come to Augsburg prepared with goals. Currently a finance major and management minor, she wants to launch two businesses. One would be a college prep class for teens, to help them prepare for the onslaught of responsibility she is discovering. The other would be a nonprofit 24-hour childcare center, designed for low-income families who need extra help because they work nights or have other scheduling challenges.
As she navigates her college years, Fields is grateful not only for the financial support AWE has provided, but also for the connection to people who understand the various situations she will experience at Augsburg. “We participants know we have a resource in this group of women. They will help us with anything we need.”