Mya Miranda finds it difficult to put into words how much her scholarship to attend the University of Missouri–St. Louis has meant on a personal level. A 2017 graduate of Hazelwood West High School, she finished her senior year with flying colors. But until just recently, a four-year university seemed out of reach.
“For a while, I didn’t think that I would be able to afford anything beyond community college,” said Miranda, now a biology major at UMSL. “This scholarship made it possible, and I love college so far. It feels as though everything I am learning is extremely interesting and is, most importantly, applicable to my life.”
She and four other new students, all hailing from North County, comprise the second-ever cohort of UMSL Bridge Program Express Scripts Scholars. Along with Miranda, Kevin Hall, Matthew Ayinmodu, Nick Rosario and Kendra Clark are setting out on their undergraduate careers on solid footing – and with solid funding in place – thanks to a major investment first announced by Express Scripts in the fall of 2015.
Each scholar receives up to $15,000 a year toward tuition and student-housing costs, plus peer mentors at UMSL and networking, internship and mentoring opportunities at the neighboring Express Scripts headquarters.
“I feel that this scholarship is the best thing that has happened to me in life so far,” said Hall, an information systems major who remembers wanting to attend UMSL since he was a freshman in high school. “It has paved the bumpy road of college, and it opens me up for more opportunities when I would otherwise have been spending a lot of time working to pay off my tuition.”
All graduates of the university’s flagship precollegiate Bridge Program – which for 31 years has been preparing local teens for college – the five recipients follow on the heels of last year’s first cohort and, by 2021, will be joined by three more groups of deserving, determined students.
The funding speaks to Express Scripts’ commitment to the future of St. Louis and its workforce, said Express Scripts President and CEO Tim Wentworth.
“We’re not just a part of the UMSL campus – we are a part of the UMSL community,” Wentworth said. “Stepping up and supporting the UMSL Bridge Program is one more way that Express Scripts is investing in the future success of the school, its students and our region.”
Wentworth adds that the mentorship component just makes sense.
“Our employees have valuable life and professional experiences to share with students,” he said. “We want to walk with them every step of the way. We are proud to offer strong mentors who can provide guidance and counsel on everything from balancing work and school, to finding that next job, to developing life skills and everything in between.”
Ayinmodu, a biochemistry and biotechnology major looking toward a career in pharmaceuticals, called the scholarship a blessing and said that he’s delighted by the “inviting and diverse” atmosphere he’s found at UMSL.
Natissia Small, director of Bridge and assistant dean of students, said the partnership with Express Scripts “creates scholarship opportunities for deserving students to overcome financial barriers that impede access.”
As a first-generation college student, Rosario is evidence of that impact. Now studying information systems and cybersecurity at UMSL, he said higher education would have eluded him without the guidance and financial aid he’s received.
“I was raised here in St. Louis by my grandparents, and there was no money for me to go to college,” Rosario explained. “I have always been a goal-orientated student and still am today, but without funds college just was not obtainable. And if it were not for the Bridge Program, I would be having trouble navigating college and keeping up with homework.”
Evie Hemphill is a strategic communication associate at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.