Felesha Clarke

Felesha Clarke, the first recipient of the Dr. Donald Suggs Scholarship at UMSL, is beginning her freshman year and plans to study engineering in the Joint Engineering Program, a partnership between UMSL and Washington University in St. Louis.

There’s a chance Felesha Clarke was the first applicant for the Dr. Donald Suggs Scholarship at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Her mother, Leisa Clarke, read a story last fall in The St. Louis American about the scholarship’s creation and showed it to her daughter, encouraging her to apply.

Felesha Clarke complied, checking UMSL’s scholarship website several times before the application was even posted. She wasted no time submitting it once it finally appeared.

Clarke had to wait a few months, but a letter arrived last spring notifying her she’d been chosen as the first recipient of the institutionally funded full-tuition award.

“I was really happy and just really thankful,” said Clarke, who participated in UMSL’s Bridge Program throughout high school and graduated in May as the valedictorian at Lift for Life Academy. “I’ve always wanted to come to UMSL, but that made it much easier.”

“I met Felesha at the Infinite Scholars college fair last fall,” said Alan Byrd, UMSL’s vice provost of enrollment management. “She has been active in our Bridge Program for years, so we were pretty familiar with her and knew what type of asset she would be to our campus. Her resume and her application really stood out from the crowd, so we were very excited when this scholarship opportunity became available because she was an ideal candidate.”

The scholarship is named for Suggs, a publisher and executive editor of The St. Louis American. He was a founding member of UMSL’s Chancellor’s Council in 1979, was awarded an honorary degree in humane letters in 1993 and helped raise funds for the Barnett Memorial Plaza established in 2012.

The scholarship was created to attract talented St. Louis students who hail from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. It provides $12,000 towards tuition and fees for 30 credit hours per academic year with an additional funding of $1,000 each semester for books and supplies.

 “We saw what a lot of institutions are experiencing locally: Many of the top students in our region are being drawn away from St. Louis by scholarship offers at other universities. They receive lucrative scholarships from various universities out of state, and they end up finding employment and different opportunities in those states after they graduate,” Byrd said.

“The Suggs scholarship provides an opportunity for us to keep some of our best and brightest talent right here in St. Louis to attend UMSL, and it gives local companies a chance to groom these students to be future employees and leaders of the region.”

Clarke, who was born in Jamaica and moved to St. Louis before beginning high school, plans to study engineering through the Joint Engineering Program run in a partnership between UMSL and Washington University in St. Louis. She’s still undecided on which type of engineering she will make her focus.

She believes her experience in the Bridge Program has her on solid footing to begin college.

“The Bridge Program was like a gateway for me to have an experience about what college was really going to be like,” Clarke said. “It was important for me to have that experience and be more prepared.”

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