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Saved by Gate

Grace McMullen

Grace McMullen has felt the burden of student loans. As a financially overwhelmed college student, she thought the weight could only be lifted by a miracle – or the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship.

A native of Waxhaw, N.C., Grace chose Berry even though she knew that she would not be eligible for the HOPE Scholarship and other state assistance available to Georgia residents. 

Though she did receive financial aid from the college, the specter of mounting debt led her to question that decision. By the end of her freshman year, she had made the difficult decision to transfer. Then an unexpected reprieve arrived – her acceptance into the Gate Program.

“When I realized I had received the scholarship I was a little confused because I had been so ready to transfer,” Grace admitted. “That confusion quickly turned into gratitude, and I realized that staying at Berry was the best thing that could have happened to me.

The Gate Program is unique because it makes it possible for students like Grace to work their way through Berry and graduate debt free. The scholarship represents a partnership between Grace and her family, the college and donor Audrey Morgan, a member of the Berry Board of Visitors and a generous supporter of Berry students. Grace’s portion is paid through her participation in the Berry’s on-campus Work Experience Program.

Gate Scholars are required to work 20 hours per week (16 for freshmen) in the spring and fall and full time during the summer months and holiday breaks. This may sound like a daunting task for a college student, but not to Grace.

“To me, having to work so many hours isn’t a hindrance,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to get my hands on even more projects and to build my resume in ways that other college students can only dream about.

As a performer pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music with elective studies in business, Grace relishes her on-campus job as an assistant to Dr. Kris Carlisle, one of the many talented faculty members in Berry’s fine arts department. This spring, her talents as a pianist won her the right to perform in concert as a soloist with both the Rome and Berry College symphony orchestras.

She also works for Berry’s student activities board – helping to plan some of the largest events on campus each year – and as a customer service assistant in the financial aid office. 

Grace knows none of these experiences would be possible without the generosity of Audrey Morgan, the donor who helped keep her Berry dream alive.

“You have made an impact on my life,” Grace expressed, “an impact that I know is molding me into who I am meant to become emotionally, academically and spiritually, simply because I am able to stay at Berry. Thank you.”

 

Story by student editorial assistant Casey Cox

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