Checking In With Scholarship Winners

Checking In With Scholarship Winners

May 14, 2019

Western Fraternal Life believes in the importance of education. We strive to help our members achieve their educational goals by providing 25 yearly scholarships. Since 2000, Western has awarded $356,000 in scholarships to its members. Recently, we checked in with a few of our past winners to see where their journey has taken them since graduating from college.

Barb Weber, No. 155, Montgomery, MN was a 2009 winner of our Western National Scholarship Non-Traditional. She attended Gustavus Adolphus College as an undergraduate and the University of St. Thomas for her MBA in business administration.

Was this always your career choice?
Not initially as an undergrad. Right out of high school I wanted to be a doctor. However, once I was in my business career, I knew I always wanted to get my MBA. I like the business operations side of the non-profit sector. I wanted to work at a smaller organization that helped students attain a post-secondary education.

What is your current position?
I am currently Vice President of Operations and School Partnerships with Better Future Forward (BFF), a non-profit organization that provides income share agreements to college students as an alternative to private loans.

What led you here?
The vast majority of my career has been spent working at non-profit organizations whose mission is to help students access and afford a post-secondary education. I was with Scholarship America at the time I received the Western National Scholarship to attend University of St. Thomas and earn my MBA. Receiving my MBA opened the door to promotions within the organization, as well as help me secure employment following my tenure at Scholarship America.

What has been the hardest transition since graduating?
Because I was a non-traditional student who had been in the workforce for many years before going back to school, I did not experience any hard transitions after graduating with my MBA.

What has been surprisingly easy?
Being able to immediately apply what I learned in grad school to my employment.

How did school prepare you for the future?
Without my MBA, I was unable to advance any further in my career. Earning my MBA opened many doors for me that were not attainable before.

How did your involvement with the lodge prepare you for the future?
I remember the lodge as a place for camaraderie and family. That is something I have valued highly my entire life.

What are your plans in the next 5-10 years?
Within the next five years, I hope to still be in the workforce helping people attain their dreams of attending and graduating from college. After five years, I hope to be retired and enjoying time with my grandchildren and traveling the country and world during my free time.

How would you like to continue fraternalism (being of service to others) in your career/life?
Once retired, I would also like to volunteer at a high school or community center to assist student with completing their college and financial aid applications.

Do you have any words of wisdom for new graduates?
Believe in yourself and good things will happen!

Cassy (Norton) Woodland, No. 2, New Prague, MN was a 2010 and 2013 winner of our National Scholarship. She attended Saint Thomas for her undergraduate degree and T. Still University for her Doctoral degree. Cassy majored in exercise science with a minor in psychology, and earned her doctorate in physical therapy.

Was this always your career choice?
I always had a passion for science and medicine. However, I did not know I wanted to be a doctor of physical therapy until sophomore year of undergrad. 

What led you to this career choice?
A number of things and opportunities in college drew me to pursue a career as a doctor of physical therapy. My educational, volunteer, and work experiences as a patient safety attendant and patient care assistant were big influencers. As well as taking care of a girl with Cerebral Palsy were some of the wonderful opportunities that drew me to this career path. However, it was my experience with my grandpa and his physical therapist that really sparked my interest in this career. When my grandpa became very sick, he had a physical therapist come to the home to help him with strength, endurance, cardiopulmonary exercises, activities of daily living, and more. But, what I saw was the way that the physical therapist helped give my grandpa an improved quality of life and the opportunity to be more comfortable and independent. When I saw this, I knew that I too wanted to help others achieve this and have the highest quality of life that they could have.

Now, as a doctor of physical therapy specializing in pediatric therapy, I get the wonderful opportunity to work with kiddos in the school setting using the educational model and in the homes using the medical model. It is such a joy and very rewarding to work with kiddos, their families, and teams to help them achieve the highest level of independence.

What led you here?
My doctoral education, along with my volunteer opportunities working with kids with disabilities, AZ disabled sports, and on a team where we presented collaborative approaches using a team model both in Arizona and Virginia. Also, my clinical rotations led me to specializing in the pediatric setting as well.

What has been your hardest transition since graduating?
The hardest thing has been that I continue to believe in going 110% in everything I do. Although this is a good quality, it can often be hard to balance work life and personal life. Finding that balance is important as well.

What has been surprisingly easy?
My education and experiences greatly prepared me for a career as a doctor of physical therapy. I found it to be very smooth to transition as a student and apply the experiences, research, skills, and my education in the real world work life setting.

How did school prepare you for the future?
School provided the didactical, evidence based practice, and continual passion for lifelong learning that I continue to believe in and apply as a career doctor of physical therapy.

How did your involvement with the lodge prepare you for the future?
I believe that being involved in the lodge and the lodge’s strong values in culture, community, giving back, and volunteering are all values that I continue to hold and cherish as important factors in both my career and personal life.

Are you still involved in the lodge or other volunteer activities?
Yes, I continue to stay involved with the lodge by staying informed through the local Fraternal Herald and ongoing events and programs that are happening. In addition, I continue to volunteer through programs, such as AZ disabled sports, Feed My Starving Children, and other events through my community and local schools. I also serve as the secretary on my Communities Social Events Board. I am a leader for my church bible study, and I mentor high school and college students. I will continue to give back and be of service through volunteer work, educating and mentoring others and students, advocating for the physical therapy profession to best serve our patients and community, and lifelong learning and research.

What are your plans in the next 5-10 years?
I would desire to continue my work where I am with my students and kiddos. I’d like to open my own practice and continue to work with the pediatric population, as well as other physical therapy needs and serving the underserved populations.

Do you have any words of wisdom for new grads?
My words of wisdom would be to pursue where you are called to go and called to be. Do not lose the passion of why you chose to be where you are and hold on to that. Be lifelong learners knowing that you can always grow to be the best you can be.

Lydia Jerabek, No. 365, Kewaunee, WI was a 2011 and 2012 Western National Scholarship winner. She majored in communications with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in international studies. Lydia attended the University of WI-Stevens Point.

What led you to this career choice?
I started college undecided thinking that I would go into arts management. Once I attended school I realized that communications was a better fit. Communications with an emphasis in public relations was more flexible and I had more careers options. I could go into almost any company and do the work. The degree also gave me skills that would also be useful in a marketing career.

What are you doing right now?
Right now, I am the Marketing and Communications Assistant for MetaStar in Madison, WI. I was initially working in Texas but I wanted to be closer to home. I looked for jobs in Madison and Milwaukee and ended up at MetaStar.

What has been the hardest transition since graduating?
The hardest transition was being unemployed. It can take up to six months or longer before securing a job, which is pretty discouraging. My first job was actually an internship because I needed more work experience.

What has been surprisingly easy for you?
I don't know that I found anything surprisingly easy. I was constantly learning and transitioning.

How did school prepare you for the future?
School prepared me for my career and gave me a new support system of college friends that I have kept until this day. Learning how to write a resume and cover letter was critical too.

How did your involvement with the lodge prepare you for the future?
Involvement with the lodge was really special to me. I had a lot of fun and was able to meet people in the community. Before my grandma passed, she was really involved and it was empowering to see women in leadership. I live in Madison now so unfortunately I am not able to be involved. I try to attend the summer picnic if I am free that weekend. I do still use the recipes that I got years ago from the Fraternal Herald. They are still fantastic!

What are your plans in the next 5-10 years?
I recently got engaged, so in the next five to ten years I want to start our family. I am also hoping to move into a house or condo to have more space. I would also like to get a promotion or two at work and expand my videography skills.

How would you like to continue fraternalism (being of service to others) in your life/career?
I want to continue fraternalism by volunteering in the community and at the local schools. Last year, I was able to go into one of the Madison after school programs to help. I had a lot of fun with the kids and helping the teachers. I also helped to start an initiative at my work to help support local charities by getting staff involved in a walking and stair climb challenge. Community service has always been a large part of my life and I hope to continue to serve in any way I can.

Do you have any words of wisdom for new graduates?
Don't get discouraged! It isn't always easy to get a job in some fields but keep going. Follow up with rejections to find out how to improve, practice interview questions out loud, and make a budget right away.

Category: Fraternal

Darcy Hilton

Member Programs Coordinator

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