Before even coming to Carthage, Carolyn Ludecke ’17 knew what passions she wanted to pursue. She just didn’t know how to make attending Carthage a reality. “My senior year of high school, I was incredibly upset that I couldn’t go to Carthage, the college of my dreams, due to finances.”
Right from the beginning, her monthly payment was a constant concern. “The July before my freshman year, my birthday present was that month’s tuition payment. I was able to make it month-by-month — I was paying for school on my own — but I had the back-up of my parents if I needed a little extra money occasionally. My mom lost her job in May, so that safety net no longer existed as I made my way into my sophomore year. Luckily I received the Bridge Grant again and I was once again able to re-enroll in Carthage.”
The Bridge Grant made enrolling and continuing at Carthage go from impossible to possible for Carolyn, who continues to work to pay tuition. Every dollar of financial aid is time that she can focus on her studies instead of working. “The Bridge Grant made it affordable and I can’t thank anyone enough for that.”
Carolyn has become very active in the campus activities, taking full advantage of her time. “Freshman year I tried a lot of clubs, but the only one I went to repeatedly was Swing Dancing Club. This year, I have Swing Society and Wave Radio. I also go to events that fit into my schedule, such as the movies they show, Casino Night, dances. As a history major, I attend many lectures.”
After graduation Carolyn wants to put both her communication and history majors to use, advertising for a museum like the Smithsonian.
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“The Bridge Fund is critical in helping retain and allow students to pursue their dream of finishing at Carthage,” says Director of Financial Aid Vatistas Vatistas. This year, 105 Bridge Grants were given to students in need.
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When Leah Ebener ’16 was a freshman, she dreamed about studying abroad, but she did not think it would be possible.
“The Bridge Fund helped me turn the dream of studying abroad into a reality,” Leah said. “The study abroad experience helped develop and enrich my core values as a person, while I lived and learned other cultures. This appreciation for others deeply impacted me. I now have a double major and a minor, and I plan on going into foreign language education.”
Leah is majoring in elementary education and Spanish, with a minor in music.
“The Carthage culture is warm, welcoming, diverse, and fun, always with lots going on, similar to that of a family,” she said. “Between the countless hours of getting additional help from professors, to meeting with multiple advisors to figure out my academic plan for classes, to spending lots of fun times with friends, I have come to love the Carthage campus, professors and students. I am so grateful that I have been provided the opportunity to experience such amazing years here at Carthage.”
“The Bridge Fund is yet another exemplification of the abundant generosity at Carthage. It has helped me accomplish everything that I anticipated doing in college and even more.”
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When Jillian Kirschbaum’s home caught fire three weeks before her high school graduation, her parents had to use money set aside for her college tuition to pay for the repairs. Devastated, Jillian gave up hopes of attending Carthage — even her acceptance letter was burned in the fire.
“My whole world was turned upside down,” she said. “It was three weeks before my senior year ended and my family was living in a hotel.”
Jillian made plans to stay home and possibly attend her local community college that fall. Everything changed, though, when Jillian and her dad met with the Financial Aid Office at Carthage. They learned of a Bridge Fund, a fund that provides emergency aid for students facing financial crises.
Because of the Bridge Fund, Jillian was able to begin her freshman year at Carthage.
“My dad and I were sitting in the office crying,” she said. “Even my dad was crying. The Bridge Fund has helped me get through college, and without it, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Carthage is more than a college. The students, faculty and staff strive for success for not only themselves, but for the entire community,” she said. “Carthage is a support system and family. I am so grateful that through hard work, motivation from those surrounding me, and the generous support of alumni donors, that I am able to take part in the Carthage experience.”
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When sophomore Kiley Greene started her career at Carthage, she soared. In her first semester, she declared a double major, became involved in clubs on campus, found a job on campus, and maintained a 4.0 GPA.
“Even though I was finding my spot here at Carthage socially and academically, I could not help but constantly worry about the large amount of loans I had taken out to pay for my first year of college, and knew that they would only increase as years went by,” said Kiley. “My father’s job was not very stable at that point, and my parents needed to dip into the money set aside to pay for college to pay for bills. I knew that if my financial situation remained, I could not continue my career at Carthage.
“I had sent all the transcripts, filled out the withdrawal papers, and even started my search for new colleges when one of my accounting professors pulled me aside after class after hearing about my transfer and asked me why I was leaving. In his determination to keep me here, as I was a very good student and very involved on campus, he sought out every department and connection he had to try and find a way for me to stay.”
Kiley soon met with the Financial Aid Office and she was given a Bridge Grant. This semester, Kiley continues her 4.0 GPA and has gotten an internship.
“In going through this experience, I would say that the thing I love most about Carthage are the caring professors,” Kiley said. “Without professors who care, I might not be here today to share this story, continuing my education here at Carthage, and have such a bright future ahead of me.”