Episode 40: The Importance of Student Scholarships

Students Shana Bartell and Newman Kante join Steve Meredith and Scott Wyatt to discuss just how important scholarships have been in their educations.

Full Transcript

Steve Meredith: Hi again everyone, and welcome to Solutions for Higher Education, a podcast featuring Scott L Wyatt, the president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. I'm your host, Steve Meredith, and joining me today, as he always does, is Scott Wyatt. President?

Scott Wyatt: Thank you, Steve, it is great to be here today.

Meredith: Good to see you again. I mentioned in our last podcast is that my favorite thing to do is to talk to students. I love all of our guests, but I love it when we have student guests, and today we have two more joining us. Why don't you introduce them?

Wyatt: We do, and we're so happy to have them both here with us. Shana Bartell and Newman Kante. Thanks for both joining us. Shana let's start with you. So, you're a student here at SUU. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your major and what your goals are in life?

Shana Bartell: OK, sure. So, I am in the aviation program and my whole point of that is to become a private pilot and we study quite a few things in that like meteorology and a lot of different things—physics and stuff that go into that—but my goal is to become a private pilot and fly commercially.

Wyatt: And how do you like those planes we've got out there?

Bartell: Oh, I love them.

Wyatt: [Laughs]

Bartell: I actually had the opportunity to fly one back from the Oshkosh Air Show and that was just an amazing experience that I was able to have, and I just love them, they are beautiful.

Wyatt: So, we…this isn't about the planes, but we do have these beautiful Cirrus airplanes that have parachutes and all the safety things. They're probably the safest airplane that anybody is using to teach flight.

Bartell: Yeah.

Wyatt: And I think they're also the prettiest.

Bartell: Yeah. They're like little sports cars. The sports car version of airplanes and I work as a mechanic over at the airport as well, so I get to work on them and get my hands on them all the time and I just love them.

Wyatt: Well, I'm glad you think the same way about them that I do. Anyway, going to school is a little bit of a challenge for you. It doesn't come easy. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your background?

Bartell: OK. So, I am from Taylorsville, Utah and I grew up in…well, my life has been a little crazy along the way and I've had a lot of challenges. My family just…none of my parents went to college and I don't have a lot of relatives that did, and I started life really, really young. Got married when I was 16, had my first kid when I was 17 and I was just a stay-at-home mom and I did a bunch of sewing and side projects and stuff like that, but I had pretty much written out college. And then I went through a divorce and decided I needed to figure out how to support all of my kids and was trying to figure out how to do that.

Wyatt: How many kids?

Bartell: I have five kids.

Wyatt: Five.

Bartell: Yeah, and my parents passed away when I was in my early 20s and so, I took on my little sister who is now 17.

Wyatt: So, you're a single parent of, essentially, 6 kids.

Bartell: That is right.

Wyatt: Trying to figure out how to get through life, pay the bills, get a good education so that you can make money to take care of your family. And obviously, money grows on trees, so it wasn't a problem.

Bartell: Do they? I've been trying to find them. [All laugh]

Meredith: You don't have a money tree at your house?

Bartell: No! I have been looking at asking and everyone keeps them to themselves. [All laugh]

Wyatt: Well, it's interesting because the students that we have here, when they quit for whatever reason and don't finish, we ask them, "What were your challenges? What were the issues? What could we do better to help you?" And, by far, the largest response is, "I just don't have the money right now. I don't have it, so I'm going to drop out and go back to work, see if I can save enough money and come back" and so many of those students don't ever find their way back.

Bartell: Yeah, I believe that.

Wyatt: So, you're here on the benefit of some scholarship help.

Bartell: Yeah, absolutely. Scholarships have helped me a lot make this possible and they're going to carry me through. Like, I already have some scholarships for the next year lined up that I've been awarded, and I couldn't do it without those.

Wyatt: You have six kids, you have no parents, if somebody wasn't helping you, this just wouldn't be possible, would it?

Bartell: For sure. I mean, there wouldn't be enough time in the day for me to even work enough to save enough to go on my own.

Wyatt: Well, Steve and I have children.

Meredith: We do. [Laughs]

Wyatt: And I think having six children is like a full-time and a half job.

Meredith: Yeah, it is. That's quite a remarkable story. And made the more remarkable I think by the fact that you're one of the few women in our aviation program. Is that right?

Bartell: Yeah. We've actually got quite a few new girls coming in this year, but when I started, I think we had two other female aviation students.

Wyatt: And you're also a mechanic.

Bartell: I'm working on my A&P. So, I started over there as reception, worked admin for a little while, but I really wanted to learn maintenance and the systems and so, there was an opening for a student worker and I work over there part-time. You have to work under an A&P for 30 months and I'm about halfway there before I can take my test for that.

Wyatt: Working part-time, raising six kids, getting a bachelor's degree, learning how to fly, pretty complicated. But, as soon as you get through your schooling, there's a great job waiting.

Bartell: Yeah, absolutely, they are desperate in the industry. And so, that's what's so exciting is not only is there a lot of work and a lot of money involved, but it's something that I care about and have a passion for. So, I couldn't ask for anything better.

Meredith: How did you find your passion for flying? Has that always been part of your life?

Bartell: So, my dad loved aviation and we grew up by the Salt Lake Airport and he always talked about buying a plane and getting his helicopter license and that was something that we always talked about and dreamed about. And when he passed away, I was really sad that I had to kind of give that up because we were going to do it together. And then when I moved down here, we had the school flying around and I started asking questions because I saw helicopters and it's such a small town I was surprised. So, I started asking neighbors and people at the grocery store and whatever just kind of poking around, "What's with the aircraft?" And I found out there was a school here. So, my twins were about a year old and I felt like I couldn't probably get a job and they would be OK if I started working on the weekend. So, I just waited for a job opening over at the flight school and something that I could qualify for and I had worked reception for, so when I saw there was a weekend reception job, it would mean that my husband at the time could watch them on the weekend and then I wouldn't work during the week. And so, I just jumped in and my third day on the job, I got to go for a backseat flight and I never let it go. I was hooked. [All laugh]

Wyatt: So, I happen to be the first SUU employee that flew one of the Cirrus.

Bartell: Oh, yeah?

Wyatt: And when I say that, that suggest that I'm a pilot, but I'm not. But you know, the salesmen, they just really want to get…

Meredith: Oh, yeah.

Wyatt: They just want to get the guy with the checkbook in the plane. [All laugh]

Meredith: Smart guys.

Wyatt: Yeah, so I've flown the Cirrus airplane. I've flown the Cirrus jet, too. And, you know, it's always when you say, "You flew it" somebody was sitting there.

Meredith: Yeah.

Wyatt: With his hands trembling.

Meredith: I've also driven an 18-wheeler, right? I wasn't in the seat with the wheel but…[All laugh]

Wyatt: Ready to take over at a moment's notice! How much further do you have?

Bartell: So, I got my private's license in April and that doesn't sound like much, but that's actually the hardest lab and so, just learning how to fly and get my landings down and stuff, I feel like I don't have much to go. But I still probably have about a year. I have to do my instrument, my commercial part I and II and then my CFI.

Wyatt: And then you'll start instructing for a while?

Bartell: Yes. If they will hire me, I definitely will.

Wyatt: OK. Well, I'm sure they will.

Bartell: [Laughs]

Wyatt: If they are listening to this.

Meredith: That's right. [All laugh]

Wyatt: It should be a help. Newman?

Newman Kante: Yes?

Wyatt: So, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background?

Kante: I'm Newman Kante. I'm from Mali, West Africa. I am one of the first in my community to go to college and study in America.

Wyatt: One of the first in your community, not just in your family?

Kante: Yes. To be called a student and I am first in my family history, meaning my great-great-grandparents to graduate from high school and attend college.

Wyatt: So, you're not a first-generation college student, you're a first-generation high school graduate?

Kante: High school graduate, yes.

Wyatt: [Laughs] Plus college?

Kante: Plus college.

Wyatt: And then, tell us how you found your way from Mali to Mt. Pleasant, Utah? And then we'll go from Mt. Pleasant to Cedar City.

Meredith: It's a direct flight, isn't it? [All laugh]

Kante: I wish there was a direct flight. That would be awesome. [All laugh]

Wyatt: Mt. Pleasant is where you went to high school?

Kante: Yes. When I was first…when I was four years old, I left my family and go a part of Mali. I always wanted to go to school and learn different things and try different things and where my parents were, there was no school. I never see a person have a book or writing something. But, when I saw my dad paying somebody to…he sell the chicken. When I first saw him, you know, he told me to grab a chicken and he sell that chicken to pay somebody to write his letter and read it. And that moment, I thought, "My dad is uneducated. He didn't go to school. But now, as his son, what I can do about that?"

Wyatt: So, how old were you when this happened?

Kante: I was four years old.

Wyatt: Four years old?

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: Your dad has got a letter, he needs to read it, but he can't read.

Kante: He cannot read.

Wyatt: And nobody will read it to him unless he pays them?

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: So, he turns over a chicken, which is a pretty valuable thing.

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: In order to get somebody to read for him. You're watching this and saying, "I'm not going to be paying chickens for people to read to me."

Kante: To read for me, yes.

Wyatt: So, you left home and stayed…who did you stay with?

Kante: I didn't stay with anybody. I left home, I was around, you know, just lay down around next to a building or I would stay in the school.

Wyatt: You were homeless?

Kante: Yes, I was homeless at that time.

Wyatt: But you were going to school?

Kante: I was going to school.

Wyatt: How far away was this from your home?

Kante: It was 50 kilometers.

Wyatt: 50 kilometers from your village.

Kante: From my village. So, I didn't get to see my parents that much and I didn't have a phone or write them a letter because nobody could read that, and I was just completely disconnected with my family.

Wyatt: That's a pretty heavy price to pay to go to school as a kid.

Kante: Yeah.

Wyatt: So, then after you're in school for a while, how did you get connected with Wasatch Academy, which is a high school in Mt. Pleasant, Utah?

Kante: Yeah. So, while I was going to school in Ouelessebougou, I saw…I loved to walked around and I saw a guy who was a mayor and a guy, his master degree in BYU was from Ouelessebougou, and he was driving a car and he drove to his house and I saw him step out of the car and open the gate and then drive the car again and then it was wind blowing and then…you know, as soon as there's nobody to hold the gate for him. And so, I saw that and so I ran into him and I put a rock into the gate so he could drive on his driveway at the house and then stop the car and asked me, "Hey, young man, where are you from? Who are you and why did you help me?" And I said, I told him where I'm from and what I'm doing here, and he asked me where I live. And I said, "I don't have a home and I'm going to school" and he invited me to his house and I was living with him about two years. And I speak French and when his friends who come from France and America just do humanitarian projects in Mali and I would be their interpreter. And now I have a house, have a place to stay and I eat pretty well and I'm going to school, but at the same time I have a little job and just be an interpreter for those visitors. And I met a guy who really was just so touched by…he was impressed the way I greet people, the way I carry myself to do all little things to them. And he just decided…he asked me what are my goals and I said, "I just want to go to school. I want to keep learning." And he said, "Would you like to come to America?" And I said, "What is America?" [All laugh]

Wyatt: What is America?

Kante: Yeah, and he said, "That's where I am from." And then he was able to reach out to Wasatch and they gave me a full-ride scholarship to come study there. So that's how I got to Wasatch and Utah.

Wyatt: So, how old were you when you came to Wasatch Academy?

Kante: I was 14.

Wyatt: 14.

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: So, about years old, you move out on your own…

Kante: Yeah.

Wyatt: And then you spend seven or eight years, I guess, living homeless until this family took you in?

Kante: Mhmm.

Wyatt: And then you come out all the way to Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant, Utah which is about as far away as we would think Timbuktu is.

Kante: [Laughs] Yes. There's no direct flight. [Laughs]

Wyatt: Yes. And of course, I use the word "Timbuktu" for a reason, because Timbuktu is in Mali.

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: So, that's where you're from.

Kante: Mhmm.

Wyatt: You graduated from Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant.

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: And then, actually, your headmaster called me.

Kante: Oh.

Wyatt: And said, "I need some help for Newman."

Kante: Wow.

Wyatt: But, there were other people that were helping you along the way.

Kante: Mhmm, yes.

Wyatt: And what are you majoring in?

Kante: I'm majoring in business management and philosophy.

Wyatt: And what's your goal?

Kante: My goal is to become an international business owner and use that business to help my country out. And I also plan to run for office in Mali.

Wyatt: So, the…and you're here on scholarship help?

Kante: Yes.

Wyatt: As you have been ever since you started high school.

Kante: High school, yes.

Wyatt: It's…I think it's helpful for the listener to know that Wasatch Academy is a private school so that you have to pay tuition to go there.

Kante: To go there, yes.

Wyatt: So, you've been getting scholarship help all the way through high school and then, so far, here at Southern Utah University.

Kante: That's correct.

Wyatt: Without scholarship help, where would you be?

Kante: I think I would be in Mali.

Wyatt: You would be homeless in Mali, wouldn't you?

Kante: I would be hopeless in Mali and really no English at all by now. And I don't know how my life would be without the help and people who believing in my and really trust their gut to invest in me. It's pretty remarkable and that includes you, as well. You just…I'm just inspired by your leadership and all the help that you have provided me.

Wyatt: Well, that's nice of you to say that about Steve.

Meredith: [Laughs]

[All laugh]

Kante: And I just hope to use your exemplary leadership into Mali.

Wyatt: Well, it's fun, Steve, to talk to these two students because we've got Shana, who, you start out as a…not expected, but a surprise single mother of six, and you're either going to be on welfare rolls and your children are going to grow up in a home without a role model, or you're going to find a way to go to school and that only happens because of scholarship help from people.

Bartell: Yeah.

Wyatt: What a difference that makes for you and then what makes for the six children that you've got and their children and families and communities and a whole family of people who can contribute who otherwise wouldn't have been able to.

Bartell: Yeah, and that's what I always tap on when I write my thank you letters to the scholarship donors is that this is more to me than just money that gets me by. I mean, it's affecting my posterity in a lot of profound ways and it's inspiring my kids and my little sister and other single moms and other students and other females in aviation to dream big and that it's possible and that people want to support you, that you're not alone.

Wyatt: How does it impact…obviously the finances makes it possible, but either one of you, how does the fact that somebody is investing in you, how does that impact how you see your studies and your future?

Kante: Me, personally, it helps me focus because, you know, there's a reason behind why they are involved and investing. They know with their help, it's going to be…it's going to change our…not just going to change my life but my family's life and my children and everybody in my community. And it just kind of inspire young people to see how somebody started with nothing and with the help is going to get to where he wants to be.

Bartell: Yeah, and for me, it makes me want to try harder, I think, than if this was a little easier or if it wasn't given to me. If this was just, you know, I had some parents and had a bunch of money that were just trying to help me through then I wouldn't try as hard. But because I know that people are donating this to me and supporting me and believe in me, it makes me not want to give up, it makes me not want to waste their time and money and I also know that this is my shot. That if I fail, I can't just try again. I just don't have the means, especially with the aviation program and how expensive it is, I just couldn't do this if I don't make it happen right now. And so, that's great and it helps me feel like, "If someone else believes in me then I can believe in me too." If they believe in me enough to invest in me then those hard days when I think, "I can't do this" I'm like "I have to do this." And I'm like, "I think I can. If they think I can, I must be able to do this." So, it's really a positive thing.

Wyatt: Yeah. They're taking money that they worked hard for and they're giving it to you like an investment in the whole community and, in your case, Newman, the whole world. It's an investment in a better world.

Kante: Mhmm.

Wyatt: A better world here and everywhere.

Kante: Everywhere, yes.

Wyatt: So, have you met your donors? The people that have donated scholarship money for you?

Bartell: So, for me, I know that Colonel Matheson has met me before and he called me up, I got a scholarship from him my first semester and he followed up with me a year later and took me for a flight in his plane and asked me how I was doing and what's holding me back and how far I've come and he talked with me, so that was really wonderful. And I have a dinner up in Salt Lake actually this next weekend where I get to go up for the FJ Management Fund and they have their banquet up there and so I can kind of talk with them and say thank you and see people face-to-face, but other than that, it's just been thank you letters. I haven't been able to meet anyone.

Wyatt: Yeah, so you've got a local person who's a pilot, spent his life flying.

Bartell: Yeah.

Wyatt: Who has taken a personal interest in you and then your dinner in Salt Lake is with the management of actually Maverick and Flying J.

Bartell: Mhmm, yes.

Wyatt: So, you're going to meet with those people and say thanks and that's a pretty impressive group of people to donate to you.

Bartell: Yeah, absolutely.

Wyatt: Do you buy more food at Maverick? [All laugh]

Bartell: You know, I'm a little happier when I fill up my gas and I feel like I didn't have the money for that much, but then I'm like, "Oh, but they help me out so much." [All laugh]

Wyatt: Yeah. Well, there are so many doing this, but those are some of them that are contributing to you and you've had a chance to connect somehow or another.

Bartell: Yeah.

Wyatt: Or will. And Newman, you've had a chance to talk to some of those that have helped you.

Kante: Yes. Some of them are, but not all of them. So, I got a Staff Association Scholarship and some of them are my co-workers and my people I work with in the office and some of them are just on campus, so I got a chance to see them, but not those who are living far away and those who just do it without even letting me know it.

Wyatt: Well, and you have a job too, don't you?

Kante: Yes, I have a job.

Wyatt: Both of you are working part-time.

Kante: Mhmm.

Wyatt: So, working part-time and getting other help, so it's not like you're just slacking around.

Kante: No. [All laugh] No, I wish.

Meredith: President, sometimes in our job, we deal with very large donors who get their names on buildings and we appreciate them more than we can say, but I've always thought that scholarships in their own way and countless maybe smaller donations have a larger impact on the individual student than do the really large donations that we receive. And I've always thought a real measure of how much people love education that work at a university is how much they donate back in scholarship money and other time and I think SUU does a great job with that.

Wyatt: Yeah. Yeah, so, some of the big donations make the whole education process possible for us.

Meredith: Sure, sure.

Wyatt: And it's the smaller donations sometimes that make it possible for individuals.

Kante: Yeah. I think an example of that would be the business building. The new Business Building. It's a great building, it's beautiful and I just appreciate it so much that I can have all of my classes next to each other and then I know I'm well prepared and I'm not late anymore and since it's started getting cold, I don't have to walk since I enter the building. [All laugh] I stay there until I'm out.

Wyatt: Yeah.

Kante: But, without the scholarship to pay for tuition and books and rent, I can't be…I cannot enter that building. Because I think combined and both together is really remarkable and it's inspiring.

Wyatt: Yeah, and the business building that's our Dixie Leavitt School of Business building was paid for, the majority of the money came from private donors. Most of it. And that's…and if you ever took classes in the old business building, it's not just convenient to not have to go outside and cross campus but it's a spectacular improvement.

Meredith: It's a beautiful new building.

Wyatt: Lots of group study space, it makes it so we can really teach business the way it ought to be taught.

Kante: Yeah.

Wyatt: Well, what would you say to the…somebody that's trying to decide on whether to donate money to a scholarship or not? What would you tell them? Or we're getting close to the Christmas season. Shana, what would you say?

Bartell: I would just say that if you're trying to decide, then always choose yes. Because you could give in other ways to the community or to family members or whatever, but the scholarships really impact people's lives in a big scale kind of way. And even…I feel like people feel like if they don't have a lot of money that they shouldn't be giving, but small scholarships, like you guys said, sometimes are amazing help. And for me, the aviation program, I got a couple larger scholarships, but I've gotten a bunch of little ones that help and for me, each semester in the aviation program is more than I make in an entire year working part-time and so, those little ones really add up. There's no amount that's too big or too small or anything. I look forward to a day that I'm on the giving side instead of the receiving side of scholarships so that I can give back and I wish that more people would so that I would open up more opportunities.

Kante: I think on top of that, I would say, "You know, just changing our lives. You're changing our families, our friends who fall away from…back home. When I come home, they just look at me like, "How did you do this? How did you do this?" So, they see the possibilities. But I think behind that is the donors, the helpers, the people who are involved. They are the possibility. And I think that's really something I really admire and I'm just so grateful for them to contribute into my life and my family and my community. I think Mali will appreciate them some day.

Wyatt: Some day when you're running Mali, it will be a better country.

Kante: It will be because of them. [Both laugh]

Wyatt: Because of them. It's so interesting to think of it that way. That somebody sitting here in Utah or wherever they might be because we have alumni all over the country.

Meredith: Mhmm.

Wyatt: In fact, we have students at SUU from 49 out of the 50 states.

Meredith: That's right.

Wyatt: This year we're missing somebody from Delaware and we've got to get out there and find them.

Meredith: Come on, Delaware. [All laugh]

Wyatt: There's got to be somebody so we can say, "All 50." But then we've got students from 61, 62 countries. 63 countries. And that means we have alumni all over the world.

Kante: All over.

Wyatt: So, the donations that we get for scholarships are coming from lots and lots of places. But, for somebody that lives here in Utah or Cedar City and contributes to a scholarship, sometimes they don't really understand that they might be changing the world in Mali. Or they might be helping a single mother get through school. It becomes really personal, but big when you think of the ramifications.

Meredith: Little seeds and big trees.

Wyatt: Little seeds and big trees, yeah. Helping communities and nations and families and individuals. It's kind of fun, it's it? We were talking on this podcast a while ago about happiness.

Meredith: We were.

Wyatt: And one of the keys of happiness is getting outside of yourself and being of service. It gets you to stop thinking of your own problems and seeing your contributions in the bigger world.

Meredith: Yeah and seeing the impact that these scholarships have had on these student's lives, just seeing their faces here—I know you don't get to notice that on the podcast—but just seeing their faces here has made me very happy.

Wyatt: Yeah, we've got four people in this room, and one of us belongs on radio. That's probably me.

Meredith: Yeah, for sure.

Wyatt: The rest of you all look awesome. [All laugh]

Meredith: Back when I was studying this, it was pretty clear that I had a "radio face" as they say. [All laugh] Radio face.

Wyatt: Yeah, I don't know what I'd say about that. Anyway, Shana and Newman, thank you for joining us today. This has been fun visiting with you and we hope all the success in the world to you both. And we look forward to hearing great things, as we have from other students that have gone through here. But it becomes real personal…

Meredith: Sure does.

Wyatt: When you sit down and spend a half an hour talking with somebody. So, one of these days, I'm going to get on an airplane to fly somewhere in the world, and Shana, you're going to be there greeting me.

Meredith: I'm going to fly to Mali and Shana's going to take me there. [All laugh]

Bartell: I was going to say, "I'll take us to Mali." [All laugh]

Meredith: Yeah, going to go visit Newman in the presidential palace over there.

Bartell: Well, aviation touches so many things, too, because we use it for our utilities and all of our packages. I mean, when all of your packages come to the door, someone flew them there are there's just a lot of things like our tuna, you know, the tuna boats and the salmon fishing and a lot of the forestry's and stuff, so people don't really how much aviation impacts everyone, even if you've never been on a plane.

Wyatt: Well, and when you put it that way, the worldwide shortage of pilots that we're projecting over the next decade is stunning. Just for that reason alone, we should all be contributing some funds to help somebody become a pilot.

Meredith: Yeah.

Wyatt: Because we're going to see a tightening of the ability to fly places if we can't really ramp up the number of people that are becoming pilots.

Bartell: Yeah, and it's usually a money issue. There's a lot of people that want to be or are capable of being a pilot, and that's where scholarships are a huge, big deal because money stops a lot of people.

Wyatt: Yeah. And it's these international businesses Newman that pull us together as countries and make us dependent on each other and help lift countries. So, anyway. It's great.

Meredith: You've been listening to Solutions for Higher Education, a podcast featuring Scott L Wyatt, the president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. We've had as our in-studio guests today two students who are here on scholarship, Newman Kante and Shana Bartell. Thanks to the two of the for being here, we're sure glad that you were, and to you, our listeners, thank you. We'll be back again soon, bye bye.