True Grit: Scholarship Rewards Perseverance Through Life’s Challenges

Grit — not IQ, test scores, or raw talent — is the strongest predictor of success, according to “genius grant” recipient Angela Duckworth. It was along this logic that Tom Sharbaugh, a ’73 graduate, designed the Schreyer Honors College Gateway Scholars Program Scholarship, which rewards first-generation college students that have persevered through life’s challenges on their way to academic success.

Jacquelyn Jackowski is one of ten “gritty” recipients of the scholarship, having held jobs since she turned 17 to pay for her education. After spending two years at Penn State Hazleton, Jackowski started at University Park this semester as a Schreyer Scholar in criminology.

Jackowski is a “Gateway Scholar,” which is a Penn State student accepted into the Schreyer Honors College in their sophomore or junior year. Only Gateway Scholars are eligible for Sharbaugh’s “grit” scholarship — and at that, the scholarship is given only to students that have overcome financial or other obstacles in their pursuit of higher education.

“During high school, I worked every weekend and a few days during the week in order to save money for college,” says Jackowski. “This gives me ‘grit’ because I have been working towards a goal of what I strive to achieve.”

According to Sharbaugh, Penn State was designed to educate students like Jackowski, and thus the Gateway Scholars Program Scholarship works toward fulfilling the university’s mission.

“I know there is still a substantial number of students in every entering class who are the first in their family to go to college,” said Sharbaugh to the Schreyer Honors College. “At the end of the day, the mission of the land-grant university is to make sure those people have a place to go to school.”

Sharbaugh, a partner at the law firm Morgan Lewis in its Business and Finance Practice, previously established Penn State’s microfinance program, which offers low-interest loans to undergraduates in need of emergency financial assistance. The program was crowd-funded, with Sharbaugh and his wife Kristin Hayes matching donations 2-to-1.

Sharbaugh and Hayes will raise money for the Gateway Scholars Program in the same manner — offering a 4-to-1 match for donations toward the initial $25,000 fundraising goal. They also donated $50,000 toward the scholarship fund, which hopes to provide $175,000 in scholarships to 35 Gateway Scholars over several years.

If you are interested in donating to the scholarship fund, visit its crowd-funding page here. The fundraising effort is a part of the “For the Future” campaign, an ambitious effort started in 2010 that aims to raise $2 billion by 2014 towards Penn State’s continued excellence as a student-centered research university.

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Bobby Chen

Writer and photographer, helping tell the many stories of the Penn State community.

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