Virginia Tech Beyond Boundaries Scholars program inspires and empowers
Andrew Jorquera developed a fascination with computers early in high school and a deep interest in community service while attending Virginia’s Governor’s School for Visual and Performing Arts and Humanities during the summer between his junior and senior years.
Now a rising junior at Virginia Tech, he continues to pursue both interests as an honors scholar, a computer science major in the College of Engineering, and the treasurer of the campus chapter of Circle K International.
“We go out into the community and volunteer,” Jorquera, who is from Gainesville, Virginia, said of Circle K. “People that we help are really grateful for it, and it’s a great feeling to know we’re doing a good thing.”
Jorquera said he’s interested in working in the nonprofit sector one day and hopes to find ways to continue helping out others in his community after college. One reason he is so interested in that, he said, has been his experience as a Virginia Tech Beyond Boundaries Scholar.
More than 230 students across the classes of 2021 and 2022 have benefited from the Beyond Boundaries Scholars program, which was announced by university President Tim Sands in November 2016.
Over 130 donors have already taken advantage of the opportunity to double the impact of their giving through the program, which provides a one-to-one match of qualifying gifts. In August, the program will expand to benefit incoming members of the class of 2023. All gifts made through June 30 can still benefit students in the fall 2019 semester.
Jorquera said the opportunity to meet donors to the program opened his eyes to the positive impact people can make on the lives of people they don’t even know.
“Obviously they’re older and have more resources than me, but I think there is a certain kind of pleasure anyone can get from helping — and it’s great to see that doesn’t just wear down after college,” Jorquera said. “If you enjoy helping people, that’s something that stays with you your entire life.”
Many scholarship gifts of $3,000, $5,000, $7,000, or $13,000 for current-use can qualify to be matched through the program. The levels were selected in consultation with the Office of Enrollment and Degree Management and address financing gaps that students and their families may face even if they do qualify for some federal aid.
Ciara Summersgill, the oldest of three, did not think attending Virginia Tech was possible until she learned that she could be a Beyond Boundaries Scholar.
“It was extremely important. It was the deciding factor,” said Summersgill, a rising junior majoring in water: resource, policy, and management in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.
Receiving a scholarship through the program has not only allowed Summersgill to pursue her academic passion in a nationally ranked program, it’s allowed her to maximize her college experience. In addition to working in a lab on campus, Summersgill is a founding member of Virginia Tech’s chapter of the Alpha Sigma Kappa sorority for women in technical studies. She competes with the club track team. She also spends much of her time volunteering with Wild Virginia to do stream monitoring and test water quality in the Brush Mountain area near Blacksburg.
“It really does make a difference when someone who thought they might not be able to go to school at all can, because of a generous scholarship someone has offered up,” said Summersgill, who is from Fairfax, Virginia.
That was also the case for Lidya Etissa, a first-generation college student who was born in Ethiopia and moved to the United States at age 10.
“I come from a family of low income,” said Etissa, a rising junior from Reston, Virginia, studying business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business. “That did definitely hinder me thinking about coming to a four-year college right away. Getting this assistance definitely lifted the burden on my family and me. I’m very grateful for it, and can focus on my education without worrying about financial matters.”
Because of the scholarship, Etissa was able to make plans to study abroad next semester. Her program takes students to Switzerland to plan service-learning projects that will later be delivered in Rwanda or Ethiopia. Etissa hopes to return to Ethiopia, her home country, to help with education, teaching English and computer skills.
The Beyond Boundaries Scholars program helps with several strategic aims that President Sands has identified, such as doubling the percentage of underrepresented minorities within the undergraduate population by 2022, enrolling more students from historically underserved populations, and attracting high-achieving students from all communities.
The program has led dozens of generous alumni and friends to give, and that generosity has both empowered and inspired the students who benefit from it.
“It shows us that it’s important to give back,” Etissa said. “People have given, and because of that opportunity we are here, and that prompts us to give back. It shows that being generous is a big thing.”
More information about the Beyond Boundaries Scholars program, including how to make a gift that will be matched, is available online.
Written by Tori Upton