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Dougherty Family College Awards 16 Full Scholarships for St. Thomas Scholarships - Newsroom

Until just a few years ago, Heidi Firman wasn’t sure if she would ever go to college. The daughter of immigrants, her path to higher education was far from clear. Now, a student preparing to graduate from Dougherty Family College, has set her sights on a completely different horizon.

“My whole family is an immigrant, so seeing what they’re going through I want to be a part of that and make a difference,” Ferman said.

DFC Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipient, Heydee Ferman

“I want to be an immigration attorney,” Ferman said. “In high school I wasn’t the best student…DFC prepared me in such a way as to prepare me for the professional world.”

After graduating with an associate’s degree, Ferman plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree as a double major in criminal justice and sociology at the University of St. Thomas. And you will do so as one of the winners of this year’s Continuing Excellence Scholarship.

This spring, 16 distinguished scholars from Dougherty’s Family College, including Ferman, were selected as recipients. The scholarships, made possible by generous donations from Ryan/Sterbenz Estate and Gene and Mary Frey, will fully fund students’ tuition fees toward their four-year degrees at St. Thomas.

“For me, this scholarship offers a kind of clear path to what I’m going to do,” Ferman said. “For my mother, this means that her first daughter received a higher education.”

Another 2022 scholarship recipient, Cheyene Bialke, was not accepted into the DFC on her first attempt. But this setback fueled her passion for success.

“I was rejected because my math grades weren’t good,” Bialke said. “I was never very good at math… I was never that student who could get an A on this test.”

Bialik has appealed the decision, explaining how she can remain a productive member of the DFC community.

DFC Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipient, Cheyene Bialke

“They want you to appeal and answer how you will ensure that you are still successful,” Bialke said. “And part of what I wrote was just actual engagement and a really active student, so I made sure I kept that promise.”

That mission paid off. Bialke now plans to pursue digital media arts with a minor in journalism in St. Thomas. She is grateful to have started her journey without having to worry about how to pay for it.

“My parents struggled a lot and sacrificed a few things for me to be in college now,” Bialke said. “This scholarship is an opportunity to help myself better as well as improve my family.”

Reflecting on her years at DFC, Bialke learns she made the right choice to pursue her college education.

“DFC stands for Dougherty Family College and the focus here is really on family,” Bialk said. “They make you feel welcome in that space.”

For scholar Adam Thompson, another Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipient, this welcoming atmosphere has had a huge impact.

DFC Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipient Adam Thompson (Abraham Swee/St. Thomas University)

“The teachers are excited to see you in the hallway,” Thompson said. “They seem to care what’s going on with you.”

Thompson and his fellow graduate students have spent their entire college education dealing with the pandemic. Through all social distancing, Thompson is delighted to have chosen DFC.

“Your well-being is important,” Thompson said. “Especially in such a strange time where it is so easy to feel isolated… they are dealing with real life issues.”

Thompson plans to pursue mechanical engineering in St. Thomas this fall. He says that the DFC played an important role in preparing him for his chosen career.

“I was kind of a mess in high school — no blueprint, no time management,” Thompson said. “DFC has really helped me get my actions together and help focus those skills.”

The Continuing Excellence Scholarships help the DFC continue to deliver on its mission-based promise – to remove the financial and systemic barriers to obtaining a college degree. Thompson knows how important this is firsthand.

“This scholarship is that piece of money,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t have to work a 20-hour-a-week job… I also have to worry about how I get my tasks done.”

The 2021 Continuing Excellence Scholarship recipients are: Dickshea Adhikari, Cal Anymut, Javier Arce, Peter Asamoah, Cheyenne Bialik, Lucas Candamel, Priscilla Chavez Romero, Dayanara Esparza, Heidi Ferman, Freddy Flores Dominguez, Edmira Jaco-English, Shukri Sheikh, Kaloyti Adam Thompson, Carmen Torres, and Jenny Fang.

For the Continuing Excellence Scholarship, each student achieved a GPA of at least 3.5 and had outstanding essays and faculty and mentor recommendations.