May 10, 2012
Juanita Irvine receives Circle of Success scholarship
By Lailani Upham
Juanita Irvine, 26, a business student at SKC is one of 63 students to be awarded a SAF Circle of Success scholarship. The grant is highly competitive as many students apply at the chance for a shot at the scholarship, according to Darbie Hess, SAF grants and scholarship manager. (Lailani Upham photo)
PABLO — Juanita Irvine, Salish Kootenai College business student and Elmo resident is one of 63 students in Montana and the only student in Lake County to receive an award from the Student Assistance Foundation Circle of Success.
SAF, a non-profit based in Helena provides and services student loan servicing for the Montana Higher Education Student Assistance Corporation and gives students tools to pursue and even fund their college education.
The foundation does this through a range of programs that include grants, community outreach, counseling and training on education finance.
The Circle of Success Grant awarded to Irvine are funded hugely through Student Assistance Foundation employee contributions and a yearly Student Assistance Foundation Annual Golf Scramble. Through this funding, 63 Montana students in need were awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
Irvine, a CSKT tribal member, says at three months old she was diagnosed with spinal meningitis and was hospitalized for a month. She feels she is blessed to be here today and definitely is making the best of her education.
Irvine is the oldest of three. She has two younger brothers, Jayden Smith and Walter Reddick. Her mother Darlene Irvine Hewankorn works for Two Eagle River School. Her father, Robert Irvine passed away in 2000.
Irvine is a 2003 graduate from TERS. “I enjoyed going to an alternative tribal school. I enjoyed it because I went to school with my relatives and also graduated with them. I also enjoyed it because it taught me about culture,” she stated. She said she especially loved the home cultures class where she gained the knowledge and experience to make star quilts, bead, along with other enjoyable cultural projects.
Some of the difficulties Irvine has overcome while going to college and still succeeding no matter what are not having her own transportation and at times hitchhiking to school, she said.
She shared that she had lost close relatives including her grandfather during the times she was trying to make it to class and paying for her own college without the help of scholarships and federal aid funding. “I have overcome those obstacles and I am very proud of how far I have come since then,” Irvine stated. Irvine reverted back in post secondary school on the obstacles faced even then, “When my father passed away I wanted to give up and not continue my education.”
Irvine received an associate of arts degree in Early Childhood Education following high school and took some time off to work as a Head Start teacher. She said she enjoyed teaching young ones but felt the need to go back to school to further her education. This is when she found the knack for business and last year joined the American Indian Business Leaders chapter at SKC with a little encouragement and “sales pitch” from her childhood friend and college friend, Colleen Tenas, SKC AIBL chapter President.
Irvine has been active in the club for the past two years and is serving as the Vice President. The past year the club attended the annual AIBL conference in Denver and took this year’s recognition for “AIBL Chapter of the Year,” she said proudly.
“My education goal is to receive my Bachelor’s degree in Business Entrepreneurship in 2014; and then go for my Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Montana.”
Darbie Hess, grants and scholarship manager for SAF, said helping students like Irvine is exactly what SAF employees intended when they established the scholarship program seven years ago.
Hess added that the employee committee charged with selecting the scholarship recipients had a challenging duty in narrowing the numerous applications to meet the number of scholarships available.
“Each year we see requests from so many dedicated and talented students, it’s always difficult to select just a few to receive Circle of Success scholarships,” she said.
Irvine says she counts a lot on her family to thrive in college, “My family is my biggest supporters of my education and wants me to succeed to get my Master’s degree.”
However with the help of the Foundation Irvine recognizes the generous financial support she has to thrive as well, “This scholarship will help me pay my rent, buy books and pay for tuition.”
To date, SAF has distributed $404,000 in Circle of Success scholarships.