Pay it Forward Scholarship winner starts 1st year at USF

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – “My name is Maria Solis, and I won the Pay it Forward Scholarship,” beamed the incoming University of Saint Francis freshman as she talked with WANE 15 days before the first day of classes. “I can’t believe I’m here,” she said with excitement.

Solis was the 2019 winner of the full four year ride scholarship. WANE 15 caught up with her moving into her dorm on the Fort Wayne campus, bogged down with boxes and crates as her family helped her get settled. It was a move made a bit more stressful because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Having to wear masks and meet people, that’s the hard part for me,” said Solis. “Of course we have to wear them to keep safe.”

“We are following guidelines instituted by the Governor,” said University of Saint Francis President Father Eric Zimmer. “We are fortunate we’re able to set up social distancing in the classrooms.”

To follow pandemic protocol Solis packed plenty of masks and disinfectant wipes. The university will also provide masks. “I’m not afraid because I know if God brought me this far something good is in store for me, but I am nervous,” said Solis. “But I am so excited about the scholarship.”

“The four-year scholarship here at the University is worth $135 thousand dollars. So it’s a tremendous gift to whoever wins it,” said Zimmer.

Solis won the Pay it Forward scholarship last year during a ceremony at her former high school Bishop Luers. In her essay she included with her application, she wrote about her desire to pay it forward with many volunteer hours at the Community Harvest Food Bank, because the bank helped her family many years ago. “I basically live to serve, it’s something I love,” said Solis. “It comes to me naturally that’s why I’m here because I love serving people and so through nursing I feel I can reach more people than I already do by helping out at the Community Harvest Food Bank.”

Solis was one of more than 180 students who submitted applications last year. Not only did the University award her a full scholarship, but two finalists received half-tuition scholarships. Solis’ advice? “Start early. The earlier you start the better. And don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it because so many people told me that several times along the way. But here I am, first generation student moving into college with this awesome opportunity. What else can I ask for?”

WANE 15 is proud to once again partner with the University of Saint Francis to kick off its annual Pay it Forward scholarship campaign. The application process is now underway. The fourth winner will be announced in December 2020. The registration deadline is November 1st.

Click here to go to the University of Saint Francis website for information on how to apply.

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