Inaugural class reflects on first semester at the UI
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A new scholarship program is providing first-generation students from a northwest Iowa town the opportunity for a University of Iowa degree—at no cost.

Learn more details about the Storm Lake Scholars Program.

UI President Sally Mason created the Storm Lake Scholars Program after visiting the city and talking with Art Cullen, editor of The Storm Lake Times, in fall 2013. Cullen asked Mason if the UI could do more to help create opportunities for first-generation students from his town. Within days, she directed the UI Office of Admissions to develop a program that would make it easier for students from Storm Lake to attend the university. A first-generation college student herself, Mason wanted to offer area students from under-represented backgrounds the chance to obtain a college education with minimal financial burden.

Seven students from Storm Lake High School are the first scholars. The students’ intended career tracks include education, psychology, and medicine.

“This program is especially important to me because it reminds me so much of the opportunities I had as a young person,” says Mason, who attended the University of Kentucky, working her way through school. “My hope for these students is that they will see opportunities that they never dreamed of, or imagined before, much the way I did as a college student.”

“I don’t think words could really describe how I feel about president Mason giving me this opportunity to come here because without it I don’t know what university I’d be in, what kind of debt I’d be in or if I’d even be able to go to a university,” says Amy Lopez, a Storm Lake scholar who’s contemplating a career in medicine.

Gabriela Rivera, the program’s director, says the students adjusted rapidly, and have not looked back.

“I feel like they’ve made this place their home now and they’re looking for all kinds of opportunities to become involved inside and outside the classroom, and be leaders on campus,” Rivera says.

Up to 10 first-year students from Storm Lake High School are eligible for the grant each year.