WMU News

State Farm supports prospective minority teachers

June 27, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- A new gift from the State Farm Companies Foundation will assist five outstanding students at Western Michigan University in their efforts to become educators.

Five scholarships are being funded with part of a $64,000 gift from State Farm. The gift includes $34,000 earmarked for support of the WMU business program in financial planning services and $30,000 going toward scholarships for minority students pursuing teaching careers.

University officials recently named the recipients of five $3,000 scholarships, which will be offered to students during both their junior and senior years of study in the WMU College of Education, one of the country's largest producers of new teachers. The State Farm funding not only helps the recipients overcome the cash crunch that many college students face, but will also bolster the number of qualified, minority teachers who are needed nationwide. State Farm officials characterize the scholarships as an investment that could influence the education of future elementary and secondary students.

"The faculty and staff in the College of Education are extremely grateful to the State Farm Companies Foundation," says Dr. Gary Wegenke, dean of the College of Education. "This partnership between the foundation and the college will allow five minority undergraduates to fulfill their dreams of becoming teachers in urban school systems. The students' disposition to succeed, coupled with the support of the foundation and college, makes for a winning combination. Through our combined efforts we will be touching, indirectly and directly, the lives of many schoolchildren in the future."

The following students have been selected as recipients of the State Farm scholarships for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years.

LaShana Johnson of Detroit, is an elementary education major. Johnson's minor areas of study include math and science, early childhood and integrated creative arts. She has extensive experience as a community volunteer, and has worked at the Children's Place Learning Center at WMU. Johnson, who also was named to the dean's list in 2002, aspires to become a school principal or administrator.

Maureen Osborne of Delton, Mich., is pursuing majors in English secondary education, Spanish secondary education and piano performance. Osborne is a member of the Lee Honors College and while she has received several scholarships, she also accompanies solo vocalists and teaches piano lessons to help pay for college. She is a member of several academic honor societies and performance groups, and has volunteered as a peer tutor, mentor, and music coordinator.

Walter E. Ragland II of Livonia, Mich., is pursuing a degree in special education. Ragland, whose minor studies are earth science and geography, decided to become a high school special education teacher after working as a volunteer in a classroom for emotionally and physically impaired students.

Meghan Sifuentes of Charlotte, Mich., is a secondary education student with a double major in history and Spanish. A member of the Lee Honors College, Sifuentes was inspired to become a teacher by a high school social studies teacher. Her goal is to work with high school students during "the pivotal years for self-discovery."

Van Than Vo of Holland, Mich., is a secondary education student majoring in mathematics. Vo, whose many honors include achieving a perfect grade average and receiving the WMU Medallion Scholarship Award, is active in several campus and community organizations. She hopes to teach overseas, and has a "fervent desire to connect with children around the world."

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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