Financial aid has been a big part of Angela’s educational journey. She paid for both her associate's and bachelor’s degrees with the help of federal student aid programs, including Pell Grants, work-study, and student loans.
And for several years along the way, Angela worked in the financial aid office of her alma mater, Spartanburg Community College in upstate South Carolina, eventually rising to the role of assistant director of financial aid. Determined to advance her career, Angela went on to earn a master’s degree in management from Southern Wesleyan University, and was subsequently hired as director of financial aid at York Technical College, where she worked until 2014.
Now the associate director of financial planning at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, Angela has had a career in financial aid for more than 20 years, and credits much of her success to the help she received through financial aid.
“I love this career!” Angela says. “I will work in financial aid until I retire. I'm very thankful for the years of Pell Grant and student loans and also the Federal Work-Study program that helped me accomplish my educational goals.”
Angela submitted her own story.
“I am in financial aid because I know the power it has to turn someone’s life around,” Samantha says. As an underprivileged student from Horry County, SC, there were times she, her parents, and her five siblings were living in hotels. At one point, the family of eight was sharing a two-bedroom home.
“What we lacked in money, though, they made up for in other things,” Samantha says of her parents. “They instilled hard work and education, even though they were not necessarily ‘educated.’” Samantha’s father, who had never attended high school, and mother, who hadn’t finished college, required their children to graduate from high school. “They sacrificed so much for all of us,” Samantha says.
Samantha, who wasn’t sure how she would pay for college, worked hard in high school and ended up getting a full academic ride to Coastal Carolina University (CCU) in 2005. “I know the power of financial aid because it’s the only reason I got where I am,” says Samantha, who, upon graduating with a bachelor’s of arts in elementary education in 2009, taught for a year and then returned to CCU to work as a financial aid counselor.
“I love helping people achieve their dreams and in the midst, I found mine,” Samantha says. She is currently working as an assistant director in the financial aid office, holds a master’s of business administration from CCU, and is pursuing a doctorate in higher education.
“I never should have had a college degree. Yet, here I am with two and working on another one. All because this aid exists. All because someone like my fellow professionals existed,” she says.
Samantha’s story was submitted by Elizabeth Milam, senior associate director of student financial aid at Clemson University and the 2015-16 president of the South Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SCASFAA).
Born and raised in Louisville, KY, Angela is one of six children in a Catholic family. After she spent a year at one institution, she returned home to the West End of Louisville and was given a choice – work a full-time job or have another plan that would lead to success. Angela chose to enroll at Bellarmine College, where she received financial aid in the form of a student loan and a work-study job in the admissions office. With those resources, and a job at First National Bank, Angela was able to earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1980.
After college, Angela created a successful career in business, working for companies like 3M Corporation; Tymnet, an international data communications company; and the fledgling start-up company Compex Corporation. In 1991, Angela and her business partner, Ram Prasad, co-founded ITS Services, a Washington, DC-based company that specializes in enterprise architecture, network services and operation, and software and applications development. At the time, ITS was one of only three women-owned technology firms in the Washington, DC, area.
Eventually, ITS grew to employ over 600 employees with annual revenues of over $75 million – an impressive feat considering the $3,000 in assets the company started with. The company received numerous honors while under Angela’s leadership, including being twice named one of the top African-American enterprises in the U.S., and one of the “Fast 50” growing companies by Washington Technology magazine.
After selling ITS in 2003, Angela focused on other pursuits, including establishing the Angela M. Mason Endowed Scholarship at Bellarmine in 2004, through which she endows scholarships in her parents’ names. She also established the Angela M. Mason Catholic High School Scholarship Program in 2005, which pays for an education at Louisville Catholic high schools for need-based, qualified students.
Angela’s story was submitted by Heather Boutell, director of financial aid at Bellarmine University.
As a first-generation student, Tabatha knows first-hand the impact the Federal Pell Grant can have on obtaining a college education. But those financial resources were only one part of her story, she says, adding that the financial aid professionals that helped her along the way “were an integral part of my journey.”
In the ninth grade, Tabatha became pregnant with her first child, which she describes as a “life-altering experience.” One constant, however, was her family’s determination that she attend college. With their support, she attended the University of South Carolina’s Palmetto College and received assistance that included the Pell Grant, student loans, and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. She was even able to turn her own struggles with the financial aid application process and the knowledge she gained from it into a work-study opportunity in the financial aid office.
Four years later, she did what many thought was not possible – she graduated with her bachelor’s degree. In 1990, she again joined Palmetto College’s financial aid office, this time as a counselor supervising the work-study students at the front desk. Tabatha went on to earn a master’s degree in education in 1997, followed by a doctorate in counselor education, both from Palmetto College.
“Words can’t express the emotions I experienced having five generations of family present at my hooding because with each degree, they were with me, encouraging me,” she says of receiving her doctorate.
Currently, Tabatha is the associate chancellor for student enrollment services at Palmetto College. She is proud to say that her oldest son has completed his bachelor’s degree and is working toward his MBA, and that her other two children are in their sophomore and freshman years of college.
“I was raised to believe that each generation had to ensure that life was better for the next, and I became a role model in my family,” Tabatha says. “I have 23 years in the financial aid profession and still enjoy helping others attain their educational goals.”
Tabatha’s story was submitted by Elizabeth Milam, senior associate director of student financial aid at Clemson University and 2015-16 president of the South Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SCASFAA).
Before Aaron was a college graduate, he was a high school dropout. “My highest grade completed was the ninth grade,” says the Charleston, SC, native. “I missed a lot of school my tenth grade year and got into a bit of trouble, so I was held back that year and I just didn’t go back. But I did get my GED when I turned 17.”
Aaron moved to Bamberg, SC, in January 2012 to live with his grandmother, who encouraged him to attend Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College (OCtech). One day, while on an errand near the Orangeburg campus, Aaron stopped by to check out his options. “I got registered that day,” he says. Aaron went on to complete his associate's degree in arts at OCtech in the summer of 2015 and transferred in the fall to Clemson University to study public history and museum studies.
While at OCtech, the honor student was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and recognized by “Who’s Who Among Students,” an exclusive honor symbolized by the presentation of an award certificate.
“As a high school dropout, if asked five years ago where I thought I would be now, pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University would not even have been imaginable to me,” says Aaron, who currently works as an archivist at Clemson’s Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
It was the Pell Grant and OCtech Foundation scholarships Aaron received that allowed him go to school without worrying about how to pay for it, according to Aaron. “Even though I was working two jobs, I would not have been able to make it without the extra help,” he says. “I can wholeheartedly say that I would not be where I am now without the assistance of financial aid.”
Aaron’s story was submitted by Bichevia Green, financial aid director at Orangeburg–Calhoun Technical College in Orangeburg, SC.