As a college student, the cost of an education can often bring a financial burden. Hodges University understands the challenges of balancing school, work and family that students face when making the decision to earn a degree. This is why Hodges University’s scholarship program is critical to students’ academic success. During this season of giving, we would like to highlight four scholarship recipients who are working toward a better future thanks, in part, to the generosity of donors who believe in the importance of education.
Spending eight years in the United States Air Force, Kory Maurer is hoping to transfer the skills he acquired in the military and turn them into a profitable business one day, but first, he must learn the basics of business. With the help of the government’s GI Bill and scholarships offered through Hodges’ Veterans Services Center, his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in business administration is putting him one step closer to owning his own business.
Receiving an honorable discharge from the Air Force in August 2016, Maurer spent the next few months transitioning to civilian life. Working as a vehicle mechanic while in the service, he began contemplating the idea of returning to school, only his focus was to pursue a field devoted to helping others. Following in his sister’s footsteps, he thought nursing would be the right career path; however, after applying to the nursing program at ITT Tech, the school closed. Turning to Rasmussen College, he began listening to his sister’s experience as a nurse and quickly decided the medical field was not in his future.
“After realizing nursing wasn’t what I wanted to pursue, I decided that business would a better fit, so I began looking into business schools and came across Hodges,” he said.
After seeing an ad online for the school, he contacted the admissions office and enrolled in the business administration bachelor’s degree program in January 2017. Not only did Hodges provide the business program he was looking for, but one aspect that impressed Maurer was the university’s Veterans Services Center (VSC) and commitment to military servicemen and women.
“I didn’t think colleges really cared that much, but what Hodges offers is great. When registration comes around, any questions I have about stipends or benefits, they’re always there to back me up,” Maurer said.
Not only is the center available to assist students with questions related to military benefits and educational assistance, but the VSC works to provide students with opportunities to receive financial assistance through scholarships.
As a recipient of the Scholarship Assistance for Veterans Education (SAVE) Fund, Maurer received $1,500 to assist in his Hodges education. Surprised by the award, Maurer explained, “I was completely shocked. I remembered receiving an email about the scholarship, but I honestly didn’t think it was real. When I later received another email stating I’d received the scholarship, I couldn’t believe it.”
Using the financial assistance provided by Hodges’ scholarship and his GI Bill, in addition to the support of his family, he is able to focus all of his attention on school.
Currently enrolled in many of the prerequisite courses needed for his degree program, Maurer has already received a taste of what to expect in his core business administration courses. While taking Introduction to Business, he was tasked with creating a business plan, incorporating everything from marketing to human resources to strategic planning.
“I want to own my own business someday, and instead of focusing on just one area of business, this degree program will help me to learn about all the different aspects of business, including accounting, finance and marketing,” he explained. “It will help me to learn the basics of business.”
Planning to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in 2021, Maurer wants to take his education one step further and earn a master’s degree in marketing because of its versatility.
“I want to open a mechanic-related business one day, but I figure, no matter what type of business I have, the background in business and marketing can take me anywhere.”
At 35 years old, Melissa Matick considers herself lucky to have found her passion in life, and although she didn’t follow the traditional path to get where she is today, her goal of becoming a dentist isn’t too far away, thanks to her personal commitment and the encouragement from others.
Enrolled in Hodges’ Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences degree program, Matick faced many struggles in finding a school with a program that would enable her to complete the prerequisites needed for dental school.
“As an older student working full time, I felt like my options to finish the prerequisites for dental school were limited,” she explained.
After receiving a recommendation from a friend who attended Hodges, she was surprised to learn of the biomedical sciences program, saying, “I didn’t know much about Hodges. I always associated it with business and psychology because the only people I knew who went to Hodges went there for those degrees.”
Although she possessed an associate degree from Florida SouthWestern State College and 13 years of experience working as a dental assistant and dental hygienist, she dreamed of earning a bachelor’s degree and ultimately, enrolling in dental school.
“Graduating high school with a class of 23 students, Hodges offered that same close-knit environment,” Matick said. “The small class size at Hodges, along with the personal attention, made me feel at home.” In addition, the accreditation of the school and flexible course offerings led her to realize the actuality of making her dream a reality.
Enrolling in the program in winter 2017, Matick works to balance her full-time duties as a student and dental assistant in Fort Myers; however, she is undeterred by the amount of work she must do in order to complete her degree.
“I love the science of dentistry and everything having to do with biology and genetics,” she said.
The biomedical sciences program at Hodges offers students a foundational knowledge in preparation for advanced educational programs. Encompassing biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and microbiology, the program combines textbook instruction with practical, hands-on lab activities.
Challenged by the coursework, Matick remains motivated and encouraged with the help of those surrounding her at home, work and school. Learning about the university’s scholarship opportunities, she submitted her essay in the hopes that some extra help would ease her financial burdens.
In October 2017, Matick learned she received the Michael and Susan London Scholarship for the fall 2017 semester, which came as a surprise. In her thank you letter, she expressed her gratitude saying, “The goals I have set drive me to continue my investment in my future…The gift you have provided will help assist me in alleviating some of the challenges I face. With your investment, I will do my best to complete another successful semester.”
Although Matick is not expected to graduate with her bachelor’s degree until August 2018, she is already looking ahead to dental school, crediting Hodges for helping to keep her on a direct path.
“Hodges University has facilitated this process by offering the courses I need that allow me to still maintain my commitment as a dental hygienist in a local dentist office. Because of this, I am further along than I expected to be and can finally begin to realize my goals.”
Warren Buffett once said, “Investing isn’t too complicated, but know what you’re investing in.” For Ricardo Alarcon, the road to earning a degree may present difficulties, but the commitment of time, money and effort in achieving an education is one of his most worthwhile investments.
Pursuing an associate degree in business administration at Hodges, Alarcon was already familiar with the school and its offerings prior to enrolling in the associate degree program in fall 2016.
Moving to the United States in 2015 from Venezuela, Alarcon’s greatest obstacle was learning English. Talking to his aunt, she suggested he enroll in Hodges’ English as a Second Language (ESL) program. “She told me it was hard, but it was a good program and what I needed to strengthen my English,” he said.
While in the program, he found additional ways to practice his English. Working as a cook, a valet and a porter, he became more comfortable and confident, and he successfully completed the program in summer 2016.
Realizing the opportunities available to him in the United States, Alarcon knew he needed to get serious about his future. Unbeknownst to him, a conversation with a friend at the local library led him to immerse himself in the world of business and stocks – a far cry from his earlier studies in Venezuela pursuing mechanical engineering.
Reading everything he could about finance, stocks, business and successful individuals such as Warren Buffett, he spoke to Erlis Abazi, director of admissions in Naples, and enrolled in the associate degree program in business administration.
Due to the results of his admissions test, it was decided Alarcon would best benefit from English Fundamentals II, which he took with Dr. Cynthia Gomez, before moving on to his other prerequisites. Since writing is a necessary skill students must learn while at Hodges, he admits, “I am very thankful I took that class, because I learned how to write a good essay. It was very hard, one of the hardest I’ve taken, but I can say I really learned in that class.”
With so many available programs within the Johnson School of Business, Alarcon knew his best course of action would be to pursue business administration, saying, “Stocks are about making the right investments in the right companies, but you need to know who the right companies are, so I thought by enrolling in business administration, I could get a better understanding of what makes a good business.”
Laying the foundation for accounting, marketing, finance, business and entrepreneurship, business administration provides students with a well-rounded view of business principles. For Alarcon, his goal is to not only become an entrepreneur and achieve financial independence for himself, but he wants to become a financial advisor and help others, especially immigrants, achieve financial stability.
Throughout his time in school, he has faced various challenges apart from learning English and writing a well-crafted essay. Working part-time as a teller at Wells Fargo, Alarcon was thrilled to be working in a field that coincided with his future career aspirations; however, due to the expiration of his employment authorization, he was forced to discontinue his work.
“My boss told me that once I was approved to work again, they would have a position available for me,” he said. Receiving his employment authorization a few months later, he returned to work, only this time, it was a full-time position, which provided him the opportunity to earn more money to assist with school.
However, as immigrants, applying and receiving residency status takes a lot of time, and due to his status, he is ineligible for financial aid, creating a financial burden. Able to take only one class the fall 2017 semester, he was surprised to learn he was a recipient of the Friends of the University Scholarship.
Alarcon admits, “Receiving the scholarship really gave me peace of mind. This scholarship program is a wonderful help. It gave me a chance to be more focused on my class work and not as concerned about how to pay for it.”
“As students, these scholarships not only help us but in my case, it helps our families. My mother was concerned about how we would pay for school, so this scholarship helped alleviate that concern. The donors are making a contribution to education, which helps build a better society for everyone.”
Roxana Rangel Pomo
Roxana Rangel Pomo began planning her future career path long before she came to the United States. Preparing to complete the physical therapist assistant (PTA) program at Hodges University in December 2017, her motivation stems from not just her family and friends, but from the Hodges community, including donors who believe in the value of education.
Earning an associate degree while in Cuba, Pomo decided the only way to pursue her dream of working in the field of physical therapy would be to move to the United States.
“I knew I wanted to come to the United States, but I wanted to first have a plan,” Pomo said. “So, I began researching schools in Southwest Florida with programs in physical therapy,” all while learning the English language. “You can learn the language, but you cannot practice it in Cuba.”
Considering Keiser University and Florida SouthWestern State College, it was the English as a Second Language (ESL) program that led her to pursue her degree program at Hodges, saying, “It made me realize that Hodges understands we, as immigrants, are people who are here to make something of ourselves.”
Two months after her arrival in the United States in 2015, she started her fall semester at Hodges, and because she still needed to complete her prerequisites before entering the physical therapist assistant program, she completed her Associate in Science in biomedical sciences in December 2016.
Before entering the PTA program, students must apply and meet specific requirements before receiving acceptance into the program, including completion of prerequisites, possessing a 2.75 GPA, 24 hours of observation hours under a licensed physical therapist or PTA, and completing an interview with PTA faculty.
“I entered the program in January 2017, and because it is an accelerated program, you have to have the mindset of ‘if you really want it, you can do it,’ because it is hard,” Pomo explained.
While students in the program are strongly discouraged from working, the hands-on experiences they receive inside and outside the classroom are designed to immerse them in real-world scenarios. Required to complete clinical internships while in the program, students must spend 40 hours each week seeing patients with a variety of diagnoses during a 15-week period.
The demanding coursework and inability to work oftentimes bring financial hardships for PTA students; however, for Pomo, the generosity of others helps to ease that burden.
Recipient of the Friends of the University Scholarship for fall 2017, Pomo expresses her deepest gratitude to those who believe in her efforts.
“These scholarships have a huge impact on students. To know that I have people supporting me helps me to keep moving, and to know that because of something I wrote, they believed enough in me to say ‘you’re worth it,’” she said.
With only weeks left before the end of this year’s PTA program, Pomo is already planning her next step, which is to prepare for the national board exams in April 2018, but she already has her long-term goals in mind – to work in acute care.
“Physical therapy provides a big social impact, and it will allow me to be a useful resource for society here in Southwest Florida.”