Ellie Willson, a junior communications major, is attending Trevecca in part because of a full scholarship she received. The J.O. McClurkan Scholarship is made available by invitation only and is for students who are outstanding in service, leadership and academics. Ellie is a 2021 McClurkan Scholarship recipient.
When I visited Trevecca in my junior year of high school, I walked away knowing I needed to go there. The logistics, however, told another story. I am a first-generation college student and Trevecca was nearly 500 miles away from home and out of my price range. It didn’t seem possible.
Originally, I had no idea a full scholarship was even an option, so I didn’t think I would be able to attend the University. Then, a few months later, Destiny Arnold, who was a year older than me and attended my church back home in Lenexa, Kansas, received the J.O. McClurkan Scholarship. Once I learned that this program existed, my dream of attending Trevecca became possible and I had a plan on how to get there – but only students who are invited can apply for the scholarship, and only the top prospects are invited to attend McClurkan Scholarship Day in the spring.
I got the invitation to apply in the mail during the fall of my senior year. I would be lying if I said I didn’t already have my application halfway done and my personal essay mostly written. I had been anticipating this moment for months.
The excitement of receiving my invitation to apply was quickly topped by my invitation to attend the scholarship day. I can remember going and getting a new sweater just for the occasion. I did practice interviews with my favorite teachers at school. I even perfected my handshake (which is very good, if I do say so myself). When the time came to drive the nine hours to Nashville, I was so nervous. It was all I had been talking about for weeks, and the day had finally come.
As part of the on-campus event, students attend a number of interviews, informational sessions and personalized academic one-on-one meetings with professors in their field. During my interviews, I quickly became comfortable and I was confident that I deserved to be there. The interviews felt more like conversations or even part of a meet-and-greet. To this day, I can remember who was on the panel, what their roles were and the personal connections we were able to build in that short time. I was even sad when the interviews ended. As the day came to a close, I felt my jitters recede. However, they were quickly replaced by a new anxiety: the results.
The next week was probably one of the longest weeks of my life. The results of that interview process would determine where I would be spending the next four years of my life. I knew I wanted to go to Trevecca more than anything.
One afternoon, when my family had all come home from work and school, my phone rang and the area code was Nashville. Immediately, I screamed and my mom turned on the camera. On that call, I found out I had been selected as one of three winners that year. I was going to Trevecca.
The next few months went by in a blur of graduation, preparation and moving into my freshman dorm in Johnson Hall. I am constantly reminded, even now, that this was all possible because of the J.O. McClurkan Scholarship. The odds had been against me. It wasn’t supposed to be possible. Yet here I am, looking in the face of my senior year at Trevecca, and I can say that I overcame every obstacle.