First generation scholar capitalizes on collegiate experience

SJU senior has studied abroad, held a prestigious fellowship and runs the student newspaper

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October 5, 2015

By Annie Dittberner '17

Jake Schultz '16 is the first in his family to attend a four-year college.

Photos by Amanda Baloun '17

Jake Schultz '16 (left) and Mike Connolly, SJU dean of students, stop for a quick chat near the Abbey and University Church.

Three years ago, Jake Schultz was the first in his family to attend college. 

Now the Saint John's University senior is on track to graduate this spring, with a long list of accomplishments in his path. 

Schultz, editor-in-chief of The Record (the student newspaper) and former Gary Eichten fellow, always knew that he would enroll in a four-year college. 

"This was my goal," the English major said. "And being able to accomplish that gives me an overwhelming sense of pride." 

Each year, the First Generation Scholarship is awarded to first-year students who are the first in their family to enroll in a four-year undergraduate program at Saint John's. Schultz is one of four current SJU seniors to receive the award. 

"I could've gone to school wherever, but this scholarship allowed me to come to where I wanted to go," Schultz said. "To me, that means the absolute most." 

Scholarship initiative

SJU dean of students Mike Connolly is the committee chair for the First Generation Scholarship program, an initiative that began in 2007. The first scholarships were awarded during the 2011-2012 academic year, with the inaugural group of three graduating last spring. 

At the beginning of each year, Connolly takes the group of scholarship students out to dinner. He meets with each scholar nearly every month throughout the student's first year. 

That's where he met Schultz. 

"Right away, I noticed that Jake had strong leadership skills," Connolly said. 

And when Connolly encouraged him to apply to be a Residential Advisor as a sophomore, Schultz did. 

"That was a great experience for him in helping others," Connolly said. "I feel like I have gotten to know Jake extremely well over his years here. He is not a stranger, and he is someone that has made his mark here at Saint John's." 

Traveling the world

Each year, Schultz and other first generation scholars receive a stipend for travel. Because several students in the program live out of state, they often use their allowance to travel home. Schultz, a native of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, used his funds in a different way. 

During his first year, Schultz traveled to Colorado with other Bennies and Johnnies in the Peer Resource Program. The next year, the scholarship allowed him to study abroad in Rome and Greece, as he was able to purchase an airplane flight to Rome, Italy. 

This year Schultz plans on using the money to embark on an Alternative Break Experience (ABE) trip with his classmates. 

"I get to travel, and that's something I've never been able to do before," Schultz said. "This scholarship has allowed me to do everything I've wanted to and more." 

Life coaches

Another feature of the First Generation Scholarship connects students with coaches in four different areas — life, career, financial aid and academic advising. 

For Connolly and other members of the scholarship committee, it is their goal to provide a supportive environment for the different aspects of a student's experience here. Connolly meets with coaches regularly to make sure that each of them are working with students in similar fashion and that the best practices are completely utilized. 

Heidi Harlander, director of career services at CSB/SJU, serves as Schultz's career coach and meets with scholarship students from weekly to monthly. 

"Heidi has been invaluable," Schultz said. "She has worked tirelessly to help me in my life after college. I've been able to experience so much because of her." 

According to Harlander though, it's not just about the career piece. 

"I get to know each scholarship student holistically," she said. "When I first meet with them, we simply get to know each other. It helps me understand their motivations and challenges. I have to build a mutual sense of trust with each of them." 

For Schultz, the coaches have been the most helpful part of the program. 

"There are things that so many people take for granted," he said. "There are resources that students can utilize and a lot of the time they don't. This scholarship almost forces me to use them, and now I use those resources because I want to. The amount of hours spent with the coaches has helped me tremendously." 

And Schultz has capitalized on those relationships. 

"Jake has pushed ahead and explored as many different avenues and opportunities here as possible," Connolly said. 

Bright future ahead

While nothing is set in stone for Schultz's future, it sure looks promising. 

Last spring, Schultz was the lone Johnnie to be selected as a Gary Eichten fellow. He and one other CSB student participated in a summer-long internship at Minnesota Public Radio, learning the means of media writing and production. 

"I hope to find a job in media, working for a newspaper or radio station," Schultz said. 

He currently works as a student writer and media relations assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, writing stories and maintaining student databases for home town news releases. 

"Jake has accomplished so much already in terms of career development," Harlander said. "But a lot of that is because of who he is — his curiosity, eagerness, his drive and priority to learn. It's a pleasure to work with somebody who understands the importance of career development during their college years. 

"Everybody knows Jake is a rock star. This program is working really well, and I hope we can expand it, so we can have more rock stars like Jake."